Fewer classrooms, fewer grade levels mean fewer pupils

Fewer than half of elementary and middle school students who need summer school to keep up are actually attending classes this summer — a result some officials say may be due to cutbacks that make the program less accessible.

After the San Francisco Unified School District’s summer-school reimbursement from the state was slashed 16 percent, the district ended summer classes at six schools — reducing the total locations to 16 out of The City’s 111 public schools. Additionally, only students in grades fifth and above are allowed to attend, according to Amy Talisman in the district’s summer-school division.

Although 906 parents were notified this spring that their fifth-graders were eligible for summer school, meaning they scored below grade-level standards on state standardized tests, 381 — 42 percent — are attending. At the middle-school level, 3,637 students were eligible, but just 1,330 — 36.5 percent — are attending, according to district data.

“I think it’s because there are so few sites this year,” said Cheryl Foster, principal ofthe summer school at Cesar Chavez Elementary School. “I think we’d have a ton more if we had it in every school, because parents may not know where the other sites are.”

Parents who find themselves splitting their time between very young children and fifth-graders who need summer classes may opt out, according to Talisman.

“Last year, when we had second through fourth grades, the percentage was higher,” Talisman said. “They would rather find an activity all their kids can participate in.”

Additionally, parents may keep their kids out of summer school in some cases if they improve their grades by the end of the school year, Talisman added.

However, many students attending summer school in the lower grades do so because they are recent immigrants and are still learning English, according to district data.

“It’s important,” said parent Adelina Duncan, whose daughter, Michelle, is attending summer school at Cesar Chavez. “She only speaks Spanish well, and this helps her reinforce what she learned during the school year.”

The bulk of this summer’s general-education students — 2,895 of a total 4,686 — are high schoolers, according to district data. District officials were not able to provide the number of high school students who were told they were eligible to take summer classes.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com 

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