WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) Like most students, Gianna Cabrera wasn't too happy when her parents told her she was going to summer school.
But the sixth-grader won't be receiving the traditional remediation and will be preparing for the next year of school in Red-Clay Consolidated School District's summer enrichment program.
"I was bummed at first," said Cabrera, who will be entering the sixth grade at Redding Middle School in Middletown when she moves into the Appoquinimink School District. "But I enjoy it because you learn and have fun at the same time."
AP Photo - - Holly Little, left, sits and talks to her student, Kennya Lopez-Ramirez, 8, while they work on a project at the Baltz Summer Enrichment program at The Baltz School in Wilmington, Del.
The enrichment program teaches students leaving grades one through five curriculums they will learn in the following school year.
"This is not a 'shame on you' summer school," said Merv Daugherty, district superintendent. "We want to prepare our students for what they are walking into."
Students poured into the halls of six different schools last week to start the program that offers 22 days of instruction over the course of the next month.
"We are promoting a high level of rigor and greater proficiency from our students by offering this instruction," Daugherty said.
And it seems parents are buying into the program. It has nearly quadrupled in size since it began in 2009. This year, more than 1,200 students will receive instruction from some 120 teachers until about 11:30 a.m. each weekday.
Daugherty said he expects more growth next year as the district adds students leaving kindergarten to the program.
"There is a greater emphasis on one-on-one instruction," Daugherty said. "The opportunity for that very small environment and one-to-10 ratio is a big selling point."
But for Issac Reid, another sixth-grader, it's simpler than that.
"I like that I don't have to stay in the house all day," Reid said. "And I want to go to college."
For Cabrera, the fact she now knows how to convert percentages better makes the program worth it.
Teachers say the opportunity for a smaller classroom makes instruction easier and gives them a chance to bond with the students.
"Having a smaller number gives you a chance to identify their learning strengths and quickly tailor your teaching," said Holly Little, who is teaching students going into third grade.
Daugherty said the program also credits the small classroom size to keeping trouble out and attendance up.
"I see eagerness. They are not dragging their feet and they are engaged by the material we are teaching," said Patricia Kelly, a reading specialist who is teaching students who will be fifth-graders in the fall.
"There is less commotion than in regular class," Cabrera said.
The instruction is primarily focused on reading comprehension and application of vocabulary. Teachers also focus some on math.
"What we read has a mystery to it," Cabrera said. "That's what I like."
Daugherty said students pay nothing for breakfast, lunch and bus service for the program. They also get no school credit, but Daugherty said the goal is to reach above proficiency level in reading by third grade.
But the benefits stretch further than that for the teachers.
"My fear is students spend too much time in front of their game system," Kelly said. "Here they are meeting kids they have never met. The activities are engaging and I hope they will pick something up and read it on their own."
For Little, she hopes students can get a confident start to the school year.
"I hope they get excited for the school year," Little said. "Confidence is important."