Summer will end earlier this year for the South Washington County high school students who enrolled in August Academy, a new two-week program at Woodbury High School intended to get kids ready for the fall.

Officials expected registrations of about 300 students for the seven classes offered when the enrollment period closed on Wednesday, said Linda Plante, Woodbury principal. The program is available to all high school students in the district, who will earn credits for completing the courses.

Plante said she patterned the program after one developed at Stevenson High School in suburban Chicago, perennially lauded as one of the nation's best. It aims to give students more flexibility by offering classes they either wouldn't be able to fit in their schedule, or that aren't offered. For example, students are required to take a health class, but it often conflicts with other academic choices.

"This shows there is an interest in class work in August," Plante said. "My own personal view is that we should run classes all year long to have different options available to students."

The summer program also helps the district restore to its class schedule some of the flexibility that will be lost in the fall when all three high schools switch from a four-period, two-semester class alignment to a six-period, trimester arrangement. The district's high schools also are adding a "zero-hour" class period before school starts that offers a few additional classes, such as gym, speech and photography.

It's also intended to "stretch" students, she says. That's why they offered a robotics class, and classes on how to succeed in class -- one to prepare upperclassmen for Advanced Placement courses, another to prepare incoming ninth-graders for the new demands of high school.

But August Academy is not summer school, which the district offers separately for students to recover credits they failed to earn during the school year.

The program is free to students and costs will be held to a minimum, about $6,500, since some of the classes will be taught by administrators, Plante said.

The program will take place in the first two weeks of August, and classes will run from 8 a.m. until noon. Students also will be assigned a 20-hour independent study or community service project in conjunction with the classes. Other classes offered are marching band, JROTC and alternative ceramics.

Plante says she wants to expand the program in the years to come.

Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287