More than 2,100 students in Proviso Township high schools failed a class by the end of the third quarter of the academic year, and district officials are hoping to see a lot of those faces over the summer months. But summer school is not mandatory, and as of late April, only some 30 students were enrolled.

By May 11 educators will make a decision on whether to offer courses during the summer based on enrollment. Classes are scheduled to run from June 11 to July 13.

“I would hope that we have summer school, but that’s a decision that parents and students need to make,” Proviso East Principal Milton Patch said.

According to statistics released by the district, 842 students at Proviso East have earned at least one F. At Proviso West another 1,260 kids failed at least one class. There are approximately 4,800 students in those two schools, according to the district’s 2006 state report card. The number of failing students at the Proviso Math and Science Academy was not released by the district.

The fourth-quarter marking period began on March 17, according to the district’s website.

By comparison, the number of students taking an interest in summer school is particularly dismal when looking at attendance from previous years. In the summer of 2006 some 1,700 students attended remediation and enrichment courses in Proviso, according to district spokesperson Angela McDaniel, the largest group in at least five years. Typically, the summer courses attract about 1,200 kids, McDaniel said.

But unlike in previous years, the district did little to publicize its summer school program this year, McDaniel said, and there is now a registration fee of $200 per course. Half of that fee will be returned though, if the student earns at least a B in the class, stays out of trouble and boasts an attendance record of at least 90 percent.

“I’m not surprised with the response to date, but I’m disappointed,” Superintendent Stan Fields said of the enrollment figures.

The fee, Fields said, isn’t likely to be a major deterrent, and he doubts the integrity of the district’s own attendance records for previous years. According to a district-wide audit completed in November, enrollment figures during the normal school year were exaggerated by as much as 20 percent between 2003 and 2006.

“I think District 209 has demonstrated that you should not trust any number that has come out of this place in years past,” Fields said.

Though the number will likely tick up slightly by May 11, Fields said the more crucial areas to monitor relate to new academic policies adopted by the school board in recent months. For example, beginning with start of the fourth marking period, students are no longer permitted to miss the first 25 minutes of a class. Also, teachers will be assigning grades at the end of each marking period rather than relying on a software program as was done in previous years. Students also must successfully complete their course work before being promoted to the next level of instruction, Fields said.

“It’s a different atmosphere,” Fields said of the new policies. “The expectations of the adults changed and the parameters changed.”

Meanwhile, those students with failing grades this year who do not attend summer school run the risk of not graduating with their classmates or even dropping out of school. Without the credits necessary to move to the next grade level with their peers, studies show that students become increasingly frustrated, according to Patch, the principal at East.

“If they don’t finish with that group [they started with] they’re prone to drop out,” Patch said.