Francis Howell wrestles with summer school options

By  Kalen Ponche

The Francis Howell School District may still offer summer school this year for elementary school students, despite concerns about a potential drop in funding.

The Board of Education on Thursday voted 4-3 to cut the original budget for summer school from $1.3 million to $1.1 million. Board members directed the administration to bring a new plan for summer school funding to the next meeting.

District spokeswoman Jennifer Gasper said administrators will create a smaller plan for summer school that will try to incorporate as many of the programs as the district has had in past years.

Superintendent Renee Schuster had asked the board to consider cutting free summer enrichment courses for elementary school students, the middle school transition program and transportation as a way to cope with expected reductions in state funding.

The board is expected to make a final decision on the summer school program at their April 15 meeting.

If the board decides not to trim the budget more substantially, the district might have less money to spend next school year.

School districts receive money from the state based on summer school enrollment even if they choose not to offer summer school programs. The Francis Howell district expects to receive about $1.1 million from the state to pay for summer school. In past years, the district would also qualify for additional funding based on attendance, so some of the summer school money could be saved for use during the school year. As of Monday, the state Legislature had not set aside any of the additional attendance money.

With the funding up in the air, districts throughout the state have considered reducing or dropping their summer school programs.

The St. Charles School District won’t offer summer school at all this year, and the Wentzville School District plans to charge students to attend its enrichment program.

Francis Howell administrators had hoped by offering a smaller summer school program, tailored toward students who had fallen behind, they could save more than $1 million to spend during the upcoming school year.

The question is, where are we going to put our increasingly limited resources?” said Schuster. “If we keep spending money, we’re going to run out.”

Lafata said he doesn’t want to assume the supplemental funding for summer school is dead. He proposed the district cut its original summer school budget slightly and spend the $1.1 million it expects.

I certainly do not want to take another thing from our teachers,” he said. “For us to make our decision based on one night of getting a projection from the state that may or may not come in is a difficult task at best,” he said.

Board member Mike Hoehn said the district should spend money on student learning during the regular school year.

The budget is what it is,” he said. “I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

Most of the nearly 100 parents and community members who commented on the issue on the district’s website said the board should cut the summer school program and use the funds during the regular school year.

District parent Tami Morrissey said she wants to see the school district offer everything, including transportation. She said her oldest three kids attend summer school.

It’s very helpful for my older son,” she said. “It helps him keep up with his schoolwork. It is nice; they get to practice with some of their schoolwork and work on that with teachers.”



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