(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- School officials aren't letting current funding woes ruin their summer. Instead, they're revamping their summer school programs and making the learning experience even more fun for their students.
In an effort to make students feel more comfortable this year, Sikeston Public Schools is holding summer school in all nine of their attendance centers, noted Ronald James, director of Sikeston's summer school.
"In years past, we have identified four attendance centers for our students so a student who went to Morehouse Elementary may have attended summer school at Southeast Elementary. This year children are going to the school they attended in the regular school year," James explained.
An estimated 1,100 Sikeston Public Schools students grades pre-kindergarten through 12 were expected to take part in summer school, which began Monday.
"Sikeston District administrators make up the summer school curriculum with emphasis on reading and math to help prepare them for the MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) test," James said about the program.
Sikeston isn't the only school district changing the rules this summer.
Both Scott County Central and East Prairie R-2 schools have hired Edison Schools, or Newton Schools, a for-profit company which runs summer school programs.
Edison offers students incentives such as gift certificates, CD players and video games. Also, if students have 100 percent attendance in summer school, they get a Visa card of $100. If they miss one day, they get $75, and if they miss two days, they'll receive a Visa card in the value of $50.
"Basically they (Edison Schools) bribe the kids to come to summer school," laughed Steve Douglas of East Prairie R-2's summer school program.
All kidding aside, Douglas said using Edison Schools can help prepare students for the MAP test.
"Our academic portion of summer school is geared to help improve our MAP scores. Most of our activities in writing parallel MAP items," Douglas said.
Summer school through Edison is set up so that in the morning, students work on language, math, reading and social studies or science, explained Lori Scheeter, Scott Central Elementary principal. Then in the afternoon, students have three one-hour electives, she said.
The electives are various classes for students per their age group, Scheeter explained. Some of the classes are a little out of the ordinary like cartooning, building music instruments and making go carts, she said.
"For example, in cartooning," Scheeter said, "students learn how to make stick characters into a person. They learn that the size of the chest is four heads and the waist is two heads. It's really neat. I was amazed."
Scheeter said Scott Central's summer school enrollment is around 300, while Douglas estimated enrollment for grades kindergarten-12 at East Prairie is over 400. These totals include summer school for grades 9-12, which is for credit recovery.
Schools operating under Edison must follow a specific curriculum and guidelines. Schools must be in session for at least 24 days, Douglas said.
"Frankly, this is a lot more work than what we normally do in summer school," Douglas admitted. "It's a huge undertaking. Teachers had to take 16 hours of professional development in Poplar Bluff."
Of course there are downfalls with Edison, such as materials that haven't been received by the district yet, Douglas said.
"It's like anything you do, some people like it and some don't. But so far, it's been very positive," Douglas said.
While funding has remained intact for districts this year, the future programming of summer schools depends largely on the state's budget.
"State funding for East Prairie is the biggest contributing factor if we will go with Edison Schools next year. Funding is going to drive what we do in summer school next year," Douglas said, adding that no one knows what the outcome will be.
James said Sikeston is still operating on current funding. Since the bottom line for the state budget hasn't been written yet, he can't predict the future.
What James can predict, though, is the success of summer school and that the students always enjoy it, he said.
"The atmosphere of summer school is a bit more relaxed with innovative activities," James noted. "It's really a dynamic addition to the regular school session."