When the USD 428 administration met to plan for summer school this year, they determined that it wasn’t worth the time, effort or taxpayer money to continue offering the program.
“It became very clear that nobody had any direction or goals for the program and it had deteriorated to such a degree that it had become hit and miss on attendance,” Superintendent Brad Reed said. Conferring with principals of the elementary schools and the middle school, he found the majority agreed.
Board Vice President Joyce Carter, a former principal at Great Bend High School, agrees. Carter also has experience working with at-risk students.
“There hasn’t been any good data about the summer school program for some time, and something definitely needs to change,” she said.
The program last year ran for four weeks during the month of June. Each week, class met for a half day, Monday through Friday. For what essentially adds up to eight full days of instruction, the district spent roughly $85,000 on teacher salaries, and $15,000 to $18,000 on utilities. And attendance was hit or miss, with many kids not showing up for classes each day due to other activities.
“There is no way to quantify if it has helped kids to do better in school,” Reed said. “While it may have benefitted some kids, there’s no way to tell if it benefitted enough kids in a big enough way to continue to do it the way we’ve been doing it.”
Administrators determined that there were two options. They could either disband it or revamp it and do it right and make it a viable program, Reed said. “That would mean spending more money, more resources, and more time.”
Still, Reed indicated that if the board felt passionately about keeping summer school, the administration would be willing to look into other ideas.
Carter has received several phone calls since Monday from patrons and teachers. Eliminating summer school may not be the answer, but redefining it is paramount for the district, she said. That may now be possible, thanks to the district’s adoption of Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports.
“We finally have ways to target students through testing,” she said. “But if it’s going to be successful, it needs to start with the parents.”
So far, no one she has talked to has indicated they feel summer school is effective the way its done now.
Summer meals will be linked to participation
For many years, the summer school program has been linked to the summer feeding program that the district administers through the United States Department of Agriculture. Once, 10 years ago, the district piloted an effort to extend the summer lunch program after summer school ended, but found that participation dropped off to an extent that it wasn’t feasible to continue to offer the program.
Since then, the district has only provided breakfast and lunch on days summer school has been in session.
Reed’s experience at other districts, however, has proven that the summer feeding program can be a success even without summer school if it is marketed well.
Assistant Superintendent Khris Thexton told board members at the Board of Education meeting Monday night the district would be looking into more effective marketing efforts for the program, and would be conferring with the state about an eblast program to help spread the word.
The district will offer summer lunches at all five elementary schools in June, and breakfast at Park and Riley schools. After the first week, the administration will evaluate the participation, and if attendance at one or more sites is lacking up to the point continuing isn’t feasible, those site/sites will likely be shut down and children will be directed to the other schools.
“As long as the participation is there, we’ll continue the program,” he said.