Summer without school

Summer school is a luxury of the past in the financially strapped Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which has been forced to lay off dozens of teachers and make more than $13 million in cuts as the state reduces funding.

High schools in the district are only holding summer school for seniors who are failing their classes and need to catch up to graduate on time, school officials said.

Paul Reed, Newport-Mesa deputy superintendent and chief business official, said the district doesn't have the funding for the sorts of summer school classes that went off without a hitch a decade or two ago.

"Nobody has run a full-blown summer school for about 20 years," Reed said. "When I was a young teacher, you just continued, and you'd have half the kids go to summer school just because parents wanted them to catch up or get them out of the house."

But those days are long gone, mostly for financial reasons, he said.

Various districts statewide have tried to run summer school programs either by turning to the parents to foot the bill or by holding fundraisers.

Or, at times, entrepreneurs or private industry try to fill the void, which is the case in Joni Sommer, who will be starting a summer school session at Newport Coast Elementary School from July 6 to Aug. 19.

It's the only summer school session being offered at the elementary school level with the exception of Paularino Elementary School, which is hosting a science and math institute June 30 to July 16, according to Laura Boss, district spokeswoman.

As for Sommer, she's a veteran teacher with 14 years of experience at Newport Coast Elementary, where she teaches fourth grade. She said she will be working with the city of Newport Beach to help bring the classes to students.

Elementary schools have not had a summer school in the district for at least three years, something that nobody is necessarily to blame for, she said, adding that it's a sign of the economic times.

She turned to the coffers of her own off-season company, Traveling Teachers, to help fill the void by making room for as many as 15 students per class for grades 1 through 6 over the summer. The cost is $155 per week for instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic from 9 to 11:30 a.m., Mondays through Thursdays.

In all, there were will be six credentialed teachers.

"Anyone is welcome," she said. "Anybody can register."

"I saw the need for quality education for kids," she said. "There was a void there and I wanted to fill it for the parents and the community."

For more information or to register, call the city Recreation Department at (949) 644-3151.

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