February 12, 2009 in Washington Voices

Summer sessions returning to Central Valley schools

Unexpected money from Title I to fund programs
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Elementary summer school is back this year in Central Valley thanks to an unexpected infusion of federal money at the beginning of the school year, the school board was told this week.

Budget cuts last year led to the elimination of elementary summer school in 2008, and middle-school classes were scaled back to only language arts and math. This year district staff is recommending that academically at-risk students in grades 1 through 5 be offered intensive reading and math classes integrated with social studies or science themes. For the first time there also will be English language development classes offered.

Instead of locating all summer school programs at one location, the district plans to offer the elementary program in a school that is a Summer Nutrition Program meal site. The program provides free breakfast and lunch to any child who shows up. “We know that both programs will benefit,” said Mary Jo Buckingham, director of special programs.

Middle school options will focus on the same subjects as the elementary program, plus a transition class for incoming high school freshmen to teach study strategies. The high school summer program will remain the same. Scholarships will be available for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and homeless students.

The district has money to pay for the program because of an unexpected increase in Title I funding received last fall, which the district didn’t find out about until July. The federal government looked at census data and adjusted the amount sent to school districts, Buckingham said.

Board member Tom Dingus said he was all for bringing summer school back, but thought maybe the money should be set aside to address anticipated state funding cuts for the 2009-10 school year. “What would be other things this money could be used for?” he said. “I want to weigh the pros and cons.”

Superintendent Ben Small said the district was limited in what the money can be used for and that the money cannot be carried over to the next school year by law. “By not having summer school, we’re not going to have a pot of money to carry into next year,” he said, so the money might as well be used.

Buckingham promised that bringing summer school back this year wouldn’t be a hardship, but made no promises about next year. “We still covered everything we needed,” she said. “We will be fine this summer. I would even work at Starbucks if they were hiring if it meant we could have a summer program.”

The fees for summer school will be discussed at the next board meeting.

Nina Culver can be reached at 927-2158 or via e-mail at ninac@spokesman.com.


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