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For more kids, school's back in

For the second year in a row summer school classes in Hillsborough County are expected to be more crowded than ever, and Hillsborough County school officials attribute the demand to the switch from a seven-period school day to six periods.

Again this year, the greatest demand is for driver's education courses, as students apparently are realizing that with the abbreviated school day they might not have time to get all the credits they need to graduate and learn to drive.

Summer school classes start today.

Although they won't have final registration numbers until later this week, school officials anticipate 40,000 to 42,000 students will be in summer school this year _ up about 1,800 from last year.

"The biggest factor on it is the six-period factor," said Don Taylor, director of comprehensive planning for the Hillsborough schools. "Students used to have 27 units that could be earned, and you needed 24 (credits) to graduate. Now we're down to 24, and you need them all to graduate.

"They don't have any wiggle room at all."

Last summer, the anticipation of the six-period school day triggered an increase in summer school enrollment as students saw that they might have trouble fitting in all the classes they wanted during the regular school year. This year, some students are playing catch-up while others are trying to get ahead.

"You have some students who failed courses, and there's no opportunity to make it up during the year," Taylor said.

In an effort to save money, the Hillsborough School Board reluctantly voted to cut back to a six-period school day. Officials estimated it would save the district about $7-million.

Parents, students and teachers complained that the move would affect the quality of education, as many students would be unable to take electives _ courses such as music or art that are not required for graduation. They also argued that students who wanted to be Florida Academic Scholars would be burdened trying to get the credits they needed.

Now, many of those students are turning to summer school to earn those extra credits.

But once again the biggest increase is in the driver's education courses.

"We're doing the best we can," said Don Fritz, supervisor of driver's education. "We're going to add teachers and add cars."

Other budget-cutting measures also will affect summer school this year.

Summer school classes have been consolidated, which means that fewer schools will be open during the summer. Last summer, seven elementary schools normally open for summer school were closed. Students from those schools attended summer classes at nearby schools.

This year, three other elementary schools were added to the list, as were two junior high schools and two middle schools.