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While most students use the summer break to vacation or hit the beach, around 1,600 students are spending it in classrooms.

Both the Santa Maria school districts -- Santa Maria Joint Union High School District and Santa Maria-Bonita School District -- are offering Migrant Summer School programs designed to help students whose parents move often to follow seasonal farm work keep up in school.

Most of the students, approximately 1,500, are at Fairlawn and Sanchez elementary schools. Another 128 are learning English and recovering lost credits at Lincoln Prep Academy adjacent to Santa Maria High School.

"The students often face difficult circumstances because they attend schools where the curriculum is different," said Peter Haws, director of English Learner and Migrant Education Programs with the high school district. "Some classes are not offered where they move and this really can make it tough for them to graduate on time."

This is the second year of the Migrant Education Summer School for the high school district. The federally funded program is run through the California Department of Education.

The high school program is part of Region 18, which extends from Paso Robles to Carpinteria and is administered through the Fresno County Office of Education.

The elementary and middle school program at Santa Maria-Bonita School District is large enough to be its own region -- Region 22.

The high school program provides both credit recovery courses in biology, earth science, world history, English and algebra 1. The ELD classes are for students who aren't proficient in English and don't speak the language in their homes. Instructors employ Read 180 and System 44, software systems used districtwide.

About a dozen staff members, including instructors and migrant advisers, hold morning and afternoon sessions.

Haws said the summer program has inspired some students to begin planning their education beyond high school.

"What we find is many of our students don't have a vision of higher education because their parents haven't gone on to college or even graduated from high school," he said.

Now able to make up lost credits, the students are banking on graduation and beyond. The summer program has this year started including visits to community colleges and universities.

The high school program runs through July 9. Santa Maria-Bonita's program ends July 14. 

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