Chesterton Tribune

Duneland School Board slashes grades 4 thru 8 summer school programs as state cuts take hold

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Shortfalls in funding from the state are causing Duneland Schools to axe a large portion of their summer school programs.

During Monday’s school board meeting, assistant superintendent Monte Moffett announced new financial woes for the school district as the state has decided to cut back the number of classes in the summer school program for which it will reimburse costs.

The only courses offered this year will be reading for grades 1-3 and classes for grades 9-12 which will count towards graduation.

“We will not be offering grades 4-8 summer school,” Moffett said in a memo to the school board. “I’m not real happy about it, but given the financial situation we can’t supplement these courses.”

The Bridges program which helps struggling eighth-graders prepare for high school will be sustained for the summer since the program offers credits and electives.

Moffett said the state reimburses Category 1 courses but will not subsidize Category 2 or Category 3 courses this year.

Although the school does not have a total projection on how many students will be impacted, Moffett later told the Chesterton Tribune 212 students in grades 1-6 took summer school in 2011 with the majority being in grades 1-4. The count for middle school students was 47 that same year.

“It’s a shame. The sad part is the kids who need it won’t get to have it,” Moffett told the Tribune.

The state may have opted to keep on subsidizing 1-3 reading for the purpose of the new IREAD-3 assessment where students are required to pass a standard reading exam or be retained in the third grade, Moffett said.

Students who fail the class during the school year can take it again at the end of their summer school course. This is the first year the exam is to be administered.

The schools by right could have carried on with the non-Category 1 courses but it is “not financially feasible,” Moffett said. He said if the school tried to operate the classes on course fees, the costs “would be steep” for parents enrolling their children.

The school’s course fees for available summer school classes will not be changed due to the state’s cuts. As previously announced in February, fees will be $125 per class at every grade level. Summer school for grades 1-3 will begin on June 11 and continue until June 28 Monday through Thursday with no class on June 20. High school sessions will start in two blocks, the first from June 11-July 3 with no class on June 22 and June 29, and the second from July 5 to July 26 with no class on July 20.

Moffett said he could not forecast if the courses will be restored next year.

Building Trades Class Finishes Energy Efficient Home

In other matters Monday, Vocational Building Trades instructor Jeff Larson gave the board a short presentation on his classes’ completion of their latest house construction project in the High Meadows West subdivision in Jackson Township. Larson’s students learned about the design of energy efficient homes and also made it handicap accessible.

The construction, which started in late 2009 and finished in 2011, was done jointly with Kankakee Valley REMC. Larson said the 2,380 square-foot house (not including the basement) was originally listed at $312,000 but is currently being marketed at $297,000.

He said the home’s occupants would probably not have to pay more than $800 in energy costs for the entire unit per year and if the $800 level is surpassed, REMC has agreed to pay part of the costs.

“It appeals to a wide range of clients, even in a tough market,” Larson said.

The profits collected on the sale of the home will be put back into the vocational program, which is separate from the school district’s budget.

Larson said this is the fifth house he’s finished with students since he started teaching in 1998. The class consists of about 30 juniors and seniors who put in a couple hours during each school day to work on the house and some have volunteered to help on the weekends.

“If they have work to do, they’re more than happy to do it,” said Larson, who mentioned students in the program receive dual credit from Ivy Tech.

Larson said those in the program have about a 95 percent job placement rate in a related field. Many students go on to be Journey Level electricians and carpenters.

IB Diplomas on the Rise

Jim Goetz, principal of Chesterton High School, addressed the board on increases seen in the number of seniors graduating with international baccalaureate program diplomas which provides the opportunity for entry into higher education. Duneland saw five seniors receive the diploma this year, which is actually more than the Valparaiso School District.

Goetz said the number of IB diplomas should increase as 22 juniors are currently in the program and he hopes eventually one-third of each graduating class will have the recognition which many colleges look for.

“Colleges get a better understanding of a student with an IB diploma. They’re going to get a kid that knows how to work,” he said.

Goetz also reported progress in the Bridges program helping 8th graders get on track with high school. He hopes the program can generate higher graduation rates. Currently 33 percent in the program go on to complete high school.

PNC’s “1+3”

In another matter, Goetz said he is collaborating with Purdue North Central on a “1+3 program” that will allow seniors to receive college credit, possibly enough to count as their first year of college meaning the student would only have to take three years of college after high school if they decide to attend PNC.

Goetz said students could also decide to work towards a second major or lighten their course load.

“There are a lot of different things that are going to come from this,” Goetz said.

Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer liked the idea that families could save money not having to pay for one year sending their child to PNC.

Baer inquired if the measure would require the Duneland School Corporation to provide additional training to its teaching staff. Goetz said some additional schooling may be needed in order for teachers to become adjunct instructors.

Next Board Meeting

The board approved moving their next meeting to April 9, from April 2, due to scheduling conflicts.

 

 

Posted 3/6/2012