Districts announce summer school plans

Burbank and Glendale schools will again offer only scaled back summer school programs as officials continue to address reduced state funding.

The pared-down programs mean free access will be granted only to students who need summer credits to graduate. All other students will be charged a fee, and even then, the number of available classes will be reduced.

Burbank Unified plans to provide free credit recovery classes for high school students only, said Jennifer Meglemre, accountability and program improvement coordinator with the district’s instructional services office.

The summer programming will cost the district about $200,000, she said. The district is negotiating with Woodbury University to make advancement classes available, although they would include tuition fees.

“There are a number of kids who are in the choir program or sports whose schedules are so impacted during the year that it really helps them to take a class during the summer,” Meglemre said.

In Glendale, free credit recovery classes will be offered to middle and high school students who need to graduate, said Glendale Unified Assistant Supt. Katherine Thorossian.

The Glendale Educational Foundation will supplement summer school by providing tuition-based enrichment courses, but that could mean $375 for a 10-credit course and $190 for a five-credit course, she added.

Students who receive free or reduced lunches may be eligible for a discount.

“Last year, the district saved just over $950,000 by using this model,” Thorossian said. “Our recommendation is, until the state funds summer programs that we continue with this model.”

Traditionally, public schools offered free summer school courses for advancement and to make up credits for graduation. Middle and high school students who failed a class during the year had the opportunity to retake it, while those looking to jump ahead could squeeze in extra credits.

In 2009, Glendale Unified spent about $2 million on summer school programming, 37% of which was advancement and enrichment classes, Thorossian said.

But summer school fell victim to the red pen as the economic recession spilled into education. Many California school districts — including Glendale and Burbank Unified — have reduced the breadth of free summer programming.

Others, such as La Cañada Unified, have eliminated free summer school altogether, although the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation will offer some courses for a fee.

The impact of eliminating free advancement courses is quantifiable, officials said. Secondary summer school attendance in Glendale Unified dipped to 6,657 students in 2010 from 9,136 students in 2009, according to the district.

“You can see that we had a significant drop-off at some of our schools … and so my presumption is a lot of that is they can’t afford it,” Glendale school board member Christine Walters said.

Her colleague on the board, Nayiri Nahabedian, said she regretted another year of pared-down summer school.

“I am deeply concerned about the inequities that get created by those who can afford to move ahead and advance and take some additional courses to get them ready for college admissions,” Nahabedian said. “We are a public education entity. We must be able to provide equal access to each child.”

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