York City School District officials are hoping several dozen eighth-graders take advantage of a six-week course this summer.

But it's not summer school in the traditional sense.

District administrators are planning a pre-ninth-grade academy for about 70 students identified by K-8 principals as kids who have earned their ticket to ninth grade but might struggle socially and academically in high school.

The new intervention program will offer an introduction to the freshman-level math and language-arts curriculum. The course will also focus on study and social skills.

"It's just going to jump-start their high school career," said Keith Still, principal at William Penn Senior High School. "We're going to try to head off problems before they begin."

Upcoming tests: This year's current freshmen are among Pennsylvania's first class of students who must score at proficient levels on three standardized tests — Algebra 1, Biology 1 and literature — to graduate.

The Keystone Exams are another motivation for the pre-ninth-grade academy, Superintendent Eric Holmes said.

"We want to make sure that our students are going to be passing the Keystones," he said. "We want to give our students every opportunity that we can to be prepared to take those tests."

This summer, the academy will be optional for at-risk students. However, the district is hoping to make the program mandatory next year if it proves successful, Holmes said.


Students who decline the invitation might be placed in the Cornerstone program, which started this year as a method of supporting students struggling academically and behaviorally in regular classrooms.

The academy could also help teachers identify incoming freshmen who would benefit from Cornerstone, Still said.

"So they're getting more intensive treatment and more support early on," he said.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.