The line around Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach stretched out as far as the front entrance by 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
Excitement filled the air, with K-5 students eager to begin the day, chatting with friends and double checking they had everything they needed in their backpacks for Ocean View School District's Saturday Academy.
"It's just been amazing. The kids want to be here," Oak View Elementary Principal Laura Dale-Pash said. "They were here since 7:30 a.m. and school doesn't start until 8 a.m. The kids love to be at school here at Oak View."
The district's Saturday Academy, a voluntary educational program held at several campuses, just completed its second such class of the school year.
Saturday Academy helps students recover lost academic time and allows the district to recoup lost money from the state, said Roni Ellis, director of administration for the district.
The district receives funding from the state based on a figure called Average Daily Attendance. About $38 is paid to the district for each student, but absences subtract from the funding.
"The district lost roughly almost $1 million in absences," Ellis said.
Now with the Saturday Academy put in place, Ocean View School District is slowly recovering from its loss, grossing $45,640 from its first session on Feb. 2, Ellis said.
The education code for the state allows for such programs.
Phil Urabe and his business Educational Consulting Services helps districts from across the state recover such losses. The former assistant superintendent for various school districts in the state said that the Saturday sessions have to be instructional and part of the curriculum, but teachers can choose different ways to teach those lessons.
"We got teachers who wanted to be there to teach a specific subject they have a passion for and kids wanted to come," he said. "It was a win-win because teachers got paid, students made up instructional time and the district made up ADA money."
There were 1,450 students who participated in the first Saturday session earlier in the month, with Oak View Elementary tallying the most students with 239.
The school saw 221 students show up on Feb. 23, said lead teacher Patti Schraff.
Principals don't oversee the Saturday programs, but instead a lead teacher.
Schraff, a fifth-grade teacher, said the sessions benefit more than just the students and the district, but teachers as well.
"Some of the student teachers that are coming in are beginning their profession so they get to try, without the watchful eye of their supervising teacher, techniques that they're fine tuning," she said.
Though a full-time teacher, fourth-grade teacher Lisa Weis also sees the liberties she can have with her students during the Saturday session that she didn't have during the regular school week.
"It's more flexible because you have extra time to do music, art, extra hands-on programs and science," she said. "The kids love it. One student told me: "This is the best day of my life!" and I'm thinking: OK, it's a Saturday…"
The next Saturday Academy will be held on March 2.