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Cutbacks hit Kanawha summer school programs

Students in Kanawha County who are interested in summer school will, for the first time, have to provide their own transportation — the first result of cutbacks that school board members warned would happen without the passage of November’s excess levy.

While summer school programs have not been nixed altogether — something school board members said was an option after the levy failed — the school system no longer will provide buses for students to take mandatory tests held in schools as part of the program, according to Missy Ruddle, the county’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“We’ve run transportation in the past,” Ruddle said, “and the costs are just kind of astronomical.”

Kanawha schools also will offer summer school only to high school students this year, Ruddle said. That change is not associated with the county budget or the levy failure, she said. Instead, it’s tied to the county’s switch to the West Virginia Department of Education’s online credit recovery program, called On Target.

On Target is for high school students who need to redo failed courses required for graduation and is based entirely online — except for tests that must be taken at Capital and St. Albans high schools.

Nearly 400 students participated in summer school programs in Kanawha County last year, according to Ruddle.

School board member Robin Rector said she is not only worried about the lack of transportation’s affect on students’ access to summer school, but also of the consequences.

“We will potentially have less people enrolled because of the transportation, and that has the potential to affect the graduation rate,” Rector said. “ The fact that they’re able to do something online is positive, but this is where we are today. It’s unfortunate. It really really is. Dollars are very tight, and it’s very scary.”

The school excess levy, which would have brought in more than $24 million, was overwhelmingly rejected by Kanawha County voters last November.

At that time, Rector warned of the consequences that would be felt by the students. The idea of implementing a “pay-to-play” policy, which would charge students to participate in athletics, is still on the table, she said.

“We talked about this. The levy had a plan in it . . . . I’m concerned it’s going to be a long road to put all those pieces together,” Rector said. “They were able to balance the budget this year, but they are still working through a number of issues, and we recognize there will be more cuts the second and third year out.”

Summer courses cost between $100 and $200, and students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch receive a 50 percent tuition waiver. Students must obtain a registration form from their school counselor and drop off payment to Capital or St. Albans high schools by June 4.

For more information, contact the Kanawha County Schools Board of Education, at 304-348-7770.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at or 304-348-4814.

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