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More public schools drop out of summer sessions

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With fewer public schools offering traditional summer programs this year, some students might find themselves scrambling to get into classes.

Thirty-seven campuses, plus the Department of Education’s e-school, will have traditional summer school this year, down from 45 in 2010.

Other campuses are expected to offer free programs exclusively for their students.

Officials say students who need to make up credits during the summer will still have plenty of opportunities to do so but will have to work closely with their schools to find the right program.

And they point out schools are increasingly offering credit recovery programs during the regular year.

SUMMER IN THE CLASSROOM

» Thirty-seven public schools and the Department of Education’s e-school (www.eschool.k12.hi.us) will offer traditional summer school this year.

» Other schools will offer free tutoring or other classes exclusively to their students.

» For a full list of schools offering traditional summer classes, go to www.hawaiidoe.org.

 

Still, the decline in the number of traditional summer school sites could leave some students in a bind.

Susan Sato, department educational specialist for student activities, said there "may not be enough" seats this summer for all the students looking to take courses.

But, she added, "We’re not going to give up on anybody."

Education officials also noted that in addition to credit recovery programs, private schools offer summer school credits that are sometimes accepted at public schools. However, those programs tend to be more expensive.

The decline follows a trend seen during the last several years. In 2004, 75 schools offered summer classes. Three years later that had declined to 42.

Sato said schools are opting not to offer summer school for a variety of reasons, including funding. Summer tuition doesn’t cover all the costs of classes, and schools have to foot the bill for the rest.

"Summer school has all these years run in the red," Sato said.

Last year the Board of Education raised tuition for summer school for the first time since 2002, to $190 for a full 120-hour session from $160. But the higher tuition still doesn’t cover costs.

The department has estimated the average cost per student of summer school is about $220 per session, including supplies and salaries for teachers.

Sato said some schools forgo summer sessions to hold other types of programs, including "extended learning opportunities" such as tutoring or remedial classes, or to focus on staff professional development and curriculum planning.

The relatively short summer break of seven weeks might also deter schools, especially for campuses planning to start their regular year even earlier as part of education reforms.

About 12,100 students participated in traditional summer programs state­wide last year, Sato said, but the count is incomplete because one school has yet to report its enrollment. About 12,400 students took summer school classes in 2009.

While fewer schools are holding traditional summer school, more campuses are expected to offer other learning opportunities this summer, the department said.

Twenty-six schools are eligible to apply for new federal grant money to offer summer classes in language arts and math. The count on how many will do so is not available because grants have not yet been awarded.

Also, for another year, students will be able to take credit makeup classes or other summer courses online. About 500 seats are available for online courses through e-school (www.eschool.k12.hi.us), and some campuses are offering their own online programs.

Allen Cole, e-school registrar, said the online courses fill up quickly. Registration opened this week, and after three days six classes were already full.

Cole said that as "there’s less and less opportunity for students to go to traditional types of summer school, there’s more and more acceptance of online education."

But even as some schools are choosing not to offer summer school because of the costs, other traditional programs are flourishing.

Mililani High has offered summer school for at least 15 years and annually gets more than 1,000 students, about one-quarter of whom are trying to make up credit after failing a course. The rest are there for enrichment courses or to take required classes — such as health and physical education — so that during the regular school year they can fit in more electives or foreign languages.

"About 75 percent of the kids are there to get ahead," said Mililani High Principal John Brummel, adding that the program has always been able to cover its costs.

Brummel also said that most of the students who take summer courses at Mililani attend the campus during the regular school year. About 200, he said, are from other high schools.

Brummel wasn’t sure whether that number would increase because fewer schools are offering programs of their own. But he did say class sizes would be capped and that priority for seats in full classes would be given to Mililani High students.

Several school officials also stressed that traditional summer school isn’t the only way to make up credits.

Castle High School has for several years offered credit recovery classes at night in lieu of summer school, said Principal Meredith Maeda.

Maeda said Castle stopped offering summer school about five years ago because of the costs and the difficulty in finding qualified teachers.

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