Plug "summer school" into an Internet browser and take a look at the things people are willing to study when the mercury hits 100.

If space plasma physics and neutron spectroscopy don't appeal, there's always the English Shakespeare Company Summer School, or -for budding Gores and Bushes - Junior Statesman Summer School.

Classrooms are frequently winning out over the beach, and enrichment isn't the only reason why. Students at all levels are valuing the use of the mid-year months for more than just grills and thrills.

On college campuses, people are choosing to stay in order to finish their degrees faster - and in a more-relaxed atmosphere. Even high-schoolers are signing up for summer courses as a way to beef up portfolios and get a jump on requirements.

In the lower grades, spending June, July, and August at a desk is less an issue of choice. Across America, mandatory summer school is being used as the latest life-preserver for at-risk students (see cover story). This experiment - and it is still just that - is one educators hope will succeed, despite its strain on resources.

Extra hours in school are clearly needed to help many of the nation's children advance. Still, the loss of play time is disheartening. If grade-schoolers are catching up in the summer, and high-schoolers are getting ahead, when is any hanging out going on?

Maybe it's a matter of perspective. Perhaps it's not a loss of free time, but the gaining of a pastime: learning.

*Send e-mail comments to campbellk@csps.com

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