Poplar Bluff cuts back on summer school

Friday, May 7, 2010

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo.--Poplar Bluff School District has cut its summer school enrollment from more than 2,000 students to fewer than 500 in response to state funding reductions.

Letters are being sent today and early next week to parents explaining the situation, according to Assistant Superintendent Sarah Long. One letter to all parents will detail the changes to summer school. A second letter will be sent only to parents whose children are eligible for the program.

"Summer school will be limited only to those students who need additional academic assistance to go on to the next grade or to be successful next school year," reads the letter to all parents.

According to legislation awaiting the governor's signature, districts will only be able to recover expenses for core classes and for no more students than 10 percent of the average daily attendance during the school year.

The district has eliminated transportation for its June program, and reduced staff, class hours and classes offered to meet its new budget constraints. Costs for the program have shrunk to about $100,000 from $500,000. The district still expects to lose money with what is offered, Long said.

"But we think it is important to at least do this for the students who need additional academic growth," she said.

Administrators have chosen to hold classes only at the districts most centrally located campuses, Eugene Field Elementary, O'Neal Elementary and the high school, in the hopes that this will be easier on parents. Junior high students will be served at the high school.

About 100 incoming students will still be able to attend Mark Twain Kindergarten Center's program which introduces children to a normal school day.

"We really feel this is the most effective program, getting students ready for their first year of school," Long said.

Elementary and junior high students will have a full day of classes, but for only two weeks, from June 7-18. High school students will have about 20 days of summer school, but only as half days. Driver's education, because it is not a core class, will be offered for a fee.

The amount of teaching staff needed for the program has also been cut by about three-fourths, Long said. This summer's program will likely employ fewer than 20 teachers. Previously, the district had about 20 teachers per summer school campus. Only one administrator will work with the program, rather than one at every building, and there will likely be no aides or secretaries.

"It's going to be tough for teachers," Long said. "A lot of them really depend on that extra salary."

Staff is being chosen based on specific selection criteria.

The district has run an expanded summer school for about five years. It offered full day classes at every campus but Lake Road Elementary, for any student who wished to attend.

The larger program had proven successful in the classroom, according to Long. She believes its absence will be noticeable in August.

"Years ago, we used to spend the entire first quarter re-teaching (concepts.)" She said. "Now, we only spend about a week. We do have concerns, especially for students who struggle academically."

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