A decade ago, students at Indian Creek High School could take American Sign Language as a foreign language during the school year, just like they would Spanish or Japanese.

School officials decided to cut the course due to lack of interest, but now they added it back in a different format. Students can still learn American Sign Language, but school officials don’t have to worry about how many enroll in the class. Five Indian Creek High School students are taking the course online this summer and are being taught by a teacher outside the district.

Years ago, summer school was focused on physical education or health courses, so students could get them out of the way, or remedial courses that allow students to catch up or make up a failed course. But summer school is evolving.

Classes now are offered online, giving students the chance to take nontraditional courses when the school district wouldn’t have had enough interest otherwise.

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While the remedial classes and physical education classes that have long been a staple of summer school are still on the schedule, summer school is also a chance for students to take unique classes that often aren’t offered during the school year. This summer, more than 770 students are taking advantage countywide through either online or traditional classes. Another 320 elementary-aged students are using the summer for remediation in math, writing and spelling, as well as taking the IREAD-3 exam again.

All school districts offer at least one class online over the summer, but not every school district has students signing up. At Franklin, for example, school officials offer only an online health class during the summer due to lack of interest previously.

School districts are using more online academies, giving students the chance to take any class that the academy offers. A popular program for local high schools is through Indiana Online Academy, which offers 50 classes that carry high school credit.

Classes are taught by teachers either from their home high school or elsewhere in central Indiana. At Center Grove, for example, students can choose from 33 classes, including journalism, personal financial responsibility or zoology. For Indian Creek students, in addition to the American Sign Language, they have the option to take a higher-level Spanish course that is typically more rigorous than the class is during the school year, director of learning and instruction Andy Cline said.

Those classes count toward the credits students need to graduate, but they also give the students a chance to explore new topics without filling an already busy school schedule. And students still get help from teachers remotely if they need it.

Students have a month to six weeks to complete the online courses and usually can turn in their work as they progress through the class, which allows them to complete work while on vacation. If students want to work ahead, they can. Students typically are limited to taking one or two classes over the summer, since online courses take at least a month to complete. Individual courses cost about $225 to $250 per class.

At Center Grove, students can take an online course by paying a $25 technology fee, and the school district will cover the rest of the cost.

School districts also still offer students some options to take summer classes at the school building, such as physical education and driver’s education.

Classes, such as physical education or economics, could be taken over the summer to free up a student’s schedule during the school year. For example, after years of not offering physical education during the summer, Whiteland Community High School officials decided this year to open the class again to anyone who wanted to take it.

About 50 students signed up for the class this summer, director of curriculum Cameron Rains said.

Indian Creek High School is the last in Johnson County to still offer summer driver’s education, which about 70 students are taking. Center Grove also has a driver’s ed program, though it is taught by a different organization.

By the numbers

Here’s a look at how many students are taking academic courses during the summer:

Center Grove

High school: 438


High school: 190


High school: About 140


High school: About 140

Driver’s ed: About 70

Online courses: About 50