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Some students must pay for summer school

Some Spokane Public Schools students who lack the credits required to graduate will have to pay nearly $200 per class to catch up this summer. And those who can’t pay may be out of luck.

The state only provides summer school funding for ninth- and 10th-graders who have not met standard on the WASL while students – especially 11th- and 12th-graders – needing credit retrieval programs will have to pay the required fee of $185 per semester course.

Central Valley schools offer classes for $160 per semester, but students attending CV schools are also eligible for scholarships.

“In the past we’ve had scholarship funds,” said Emmett Arndt, executive director for teaching and learning services for Spokane schools. Those dollars have since dried up, he said.

And with a projected budget shortfall, the district cannot afford to pay for summer school for all students. Spokane isn’t alone. East Valley schools recently canceled summer school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Spokane uses state and federal funds to pay for summer school for the poorest elementary and middle schools.

“There will always be an issue to fund summer school for all students, unless we pay for it out of the general fund,” said Nancy Stowell, associate superintendent for teaching and learning services.

The Spokane school board voted unanimously Wednesday to accept the fees and summer school programs for students this year, but not without some trepidation.

“I’m feeling a little bit nervous about any student not being able to get their credit,” said Garret Daggett, school board vice president.

School officials estimate about 500 students will seek summer school classes to make up lost credits this year, and many low-income families may not be able to afford those fees.

“We turn some students away,” said Steven Gering, principal at North Central High School. “We have multiple families that would like to come, but we just don’t have the funding.”

High school students needing remedial help with the Washington Assessment of Student Learning can still take summer courses for free, as provided by state Promoting Academic Success funds.

The state also provides Learning Assistance Program funds to pay for summer school programs for freshmen and sophomores who have not passed one or more sections of the WASL.

While the state restricts the LAP funding to only students in ninth and 10th grade this year, the rules were changed during the recently completed legislative session to any student not passing the WASL, said Tracy Williams, director of special programs for Spokane. That law won’t take effect until next year.

“I’m sure in the beginning they were thinking about how to boost up the kids for whom the graduation requirement was impending,” Williams said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire enacted a delay until 2013 for the math and science graduation requirements of the WASL this week. Without the delay, the high school class of 2008 would have been the first required to pass the math, reading and writing exams. Those students will be required to pass the writing and reading tests. The science section was to become a requirement in 2010.