Foundation continues with summer school program

The La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation unanimously voted to continue with its plan to host a summer school program Thursday night, despite the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board's decision not to set a standard for instructional minutes until 2012 on Jan. 11.

The Educational Foundation began researching the possibility of starting a fee-based summer school program for high school students more than a year ago. The Foundation entered into a contract with LCUSD on Sept. 28 to lease the district's facilities and curriculum materials. Any profit from the Foundation's summer school goes directly to the district.

The Foundation's plan is to model its summer school after La Cañada High's previous program, and adopt the district's curriculum and 6,960-minute courses.

"We believe that's necessary to ensure we have a program that has maintained the high standards and will ensure if the children take a class that we hope they will learn something," Foundation President Valerie Aenlle-Rocha said.

The Foundation's goal is to offset any damage that would have been caused by La Cañada High School cutting its summer school program in July, to save the district $87,405 annually, and provide La Cañada students with a high-quality program.

Apparently the lack of a road bump would offset the Foundation's plans after the board decided not to set an instructional minute standard on Jan. 11, when Rocha sent out an e-mail to district parents, which ran in the Valley Sun on Jan. 20.

Instructional hours became an issue for the Foundation when the organization's summer school committee was told by the district that their summer courses would have to meet the instructional minute standard set by the high school's former program for them to be accepted for credit, Rocha said in the e-mail.

"The Committee told the district that it would not be willing to provide summer school with such an extreme disparity in treatment regarding instructional minute standards," Rocha said in the e-mail. "Because the Foundation is in the business of raising funds for LCUSD, it cannot be placed in jeopardy of possibly losing money merely to provide a summer school option."

The Foundation decided to move on with it's plans, including maintaining the district's standard of 6,960 minutes, despite a major disparity in time between the Foundation's summer school program and the Hillside School and Learning Center. Hillside, another La Cañada summer school provider, offers courses that last 3,480 instructional minutes and about 70 percent of its summer school population is made up of La Cañada High students.

Rocha said it was important for to maintain LCUSD's high standards in its summer school.

"We believe that summer school is in fact an opportunity to provide a program the district no longer can," Rocha said. "We may not break even but we hope our community will support us in utilizing those funds for those reasons. It's important to have a summer school that meets the high standards our high school is known for."

The Foundation wants its summer school program to be challenging and rigorous for the students enrolled, Rocha said.

"We don't believe we can offer that in less than four hours and that's the program that we want," Rocha said. "We believe the community will support us and if we don't offer it they are going to pay for it somewhere else."

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