Summer school shows loss for public board

The summer school program offered to district grade eight students in July came as a financial loss, according to a report presented last night at the Rainy River District School Board’s first regular meeting of the school year.
Due to the low enrolment of only 33 pupils from Rainy River to Atikokan, the board got a $3,205 grant to execute the program–resulting in a $3,448 loss for the board.
Because of the poor attendance, the grant was reduced by $1,490. Optimal attendance for three schools would have been 39 students.
“It was anticipated,” said Director of Education Warren Hoshizaki. “We knew we’d be carrying through with a loss.
“This is one of the strategies to use with kids that are behind,” he added. “It was a successful endeavour and well worth it.”
As well, teachers Cameron Keast (Robert Moore), Trevor Bowles (Donald Young), and Cheryl Williams (Atikokan High School) were budgeted for 60 hours each for the sessions but contracted for 70 hours, creating a $900 difference in the teaching portion of the budget.
On the other hand, the $787 transportation allocation was not exceeded after the board spent $771 in the form of reimbursements to parents who brought their children to the various schools, particularly in the west end of the district.
In related news, Hoshizaki noted feedback has been mostly positive, as well as instructive. The grade eight students who attended classes at the three schools in July were vocal with their opinions.
Comments ranged from “We need more time because we crammed everything in” to “Cover more subject areas.” The most common response, when students were asked what they liked the least was, “It was in the summer time.”
Various parent comments included “I think it was really good thing to offer kids” to “He was disappointed that he had to miss the last week when we went on vacation” to “He is really looking forward to high school.”
“Parents that responded were very supportive to start with–after all, they got their children enrolled in the first place,” noted Hoshizaki. “They’ve seen it as a positive way to introduce kids to grade nine.”
Keast made the following suggestions about the program:
•Develop or purchase a specific curriculum complete with resources and an assessment component for summer school;
•Master a few strands of the curriculum rather than briefly touch on them all;
•Offer the course as a credit or as a means to improve marks to improve effort and attendance; and
•Provide the teacher with information related to academic and medical needs of the students.
“We’ll get better at planning it in the future,” said Hoshizaki. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to prepare it well as we could this year.”
“Everything was very rushed,” echoed Betty Ann LaRocque, the board’s assistant superintendent of education. “We thought the funding would be based on enrolment but it actually factored in with attendance. If students were lax in attendance, we lost money.”
But she also said the program was a success overall. “From the data I’ve collected, it was very successful–everyone has sung its praises,” she remarked.
“I think we should look at it again for next year,” she added.
Hoshizaki agreed, saying, “I know there’s already some talk about the value of offering other programs, outside the math and language component,” he noted.
“Recreation and crafts are two things I know of already,” he added.
Grade eight students whose achievement in math and English expectations indicated they likely were going to experience difficulty in achieving grade nine expectations were given the chance to attend the half-day summer school from July 5-30.