Foundation ponders its own summer school

La Cañada High School students might not lose a chance to attend summer school after all, even though La Cañada Unified School District will not offer the program in 2011.

The six-week summer session, which annually costs about $85,000, was eliminated by the district due to budget constraints. But a subcommittee of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation announced at Tuesday's school board meeting that it is considering running its own summer-school program.

"We want this to be a very rigorous summer school and have the same image that La Cañada Unified has and enhances the district," said former La Cañada school board member Jinny Dalbeck, now a member of the foundation's subcommittee, which includes Barry Reed, Valerie Aenlle-Rocha and Deborah Weirick.

"This isn't a proposal the district would be shaping or be subject to the governing board," Supt. Jim Stratton said. "They would establish this on their own. This would be like any tenant coming to us to lease our facilities."

The foundation would hire its own principal, academic coordinators, teachers, custodial staff and security. The district would be responsible for leasing facility spaces and providing curriculum materials.

The Las Virgenes Educational Foundation's summer-school program, based in Westlake Village, has existed for seven years and has been the model the La Cañada Educational Foundation used in its planning stages.

The local foundation hopes to achieve two things by arranging a summer-school program, Dalbeck said. Its first goal is to provide students with a wider breadth of courses for both acceleration and enrichment, while still offering remedial courses for those in need of them. Secondly, foundation officials hope the program will raise funds in support of the La Cañada public schools.

"Should there be any profit, that of course would go to the foundation, which would then go to the district," Dalbeck said. "For the parents, it's a win-win because their money is helping their students and going back to them and the district."

Although it's a win-win for parents and the district, the foundation would be taking a risk with its finances and reputation, Reed said.

"We don't take [the foundation's] decision to pursue this lightly," Reed said.

The foundation would have to approve whatever decisions the subcommittee makes as it explores the possibility of launching the summer-school program next June.

"This is a really exciting opportunity for our kids and I'm thrilled you all took this on; I can see this is a huge project," school board member Cindy Wilcox said. "I know the community is dying to hear this, so you have a willing audience out there."

This district will also need to approve a contract to lease its facilities and curriculum materials to the foundation. The foundation's summer school committee will propose a contract to the board at its next meeting Sept. 28.

"If this is going to come into fruition for 2011, we have quite a lot of work to do," Dalbeck said. "We're essentially starting a brand new private school that will run for six weeks."

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