Palo Alto school officials are scaling back their plans for summer school next year following a court settlement and state legislation barring California school districts from charging summer-school fees, even for non-academic "enrichment" classes.
The Palo Alto Unified School District had to refund fees for 2013 summer enrichment classes -- some as high as $475 -- after hearing in April from the California Department of Education that no fees could be charged.
The summer classes were still offered as planned but, for summer 2014, district staff members have proposed scaling back. Elementary summer school is projected for an enrollment of 400, down from this year's 662. At the middle-school level, enrollment is projected for 150, down from 463 this past summer. The district-wide summer-school budget is proposed to drop from $810,582 to $683,226.
Officials will present their 2014 summer school proposal -- as well as report on the 2013 summer session -- to the Board of Education Tuesday, Oct. 22.
"We scaled back summer school, having decided that during the summer we should use our resources to assist the students who are most in need of an academic program," Summer School Coordinator and Palo Alto Adult School Principal Kara Rosenberg said in an email Sunday.
The ban on summer-school fees follows a 2010 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenged fees for summer school, sports uniforms, field trips and other education-related items, saying they "blatantly violate the free school guarantee by requiring students to pay fees and purchase assigned materials for credit courses."
A California law passed last year ended that litigation. The new law, AB 1575 requires the California Department of Education, beginning in 2014-15, to provide guidance to school districts every three years on items it can charge fees for. It was introduced by then-Assemblyman, now state Senator Ricardo Lara of Los Angeles County.
An April 24 "fiscal management advisory" from the California Department of Education warned against "a tuition fee or charge as a condition of enrollment in any class or course of instruction, including a fee for attendance in a summer or vacation school, a registration fee, a fee for a catalog of courses, a fee for an examination in a subject, a late registration or program change fee, a fee for the issuance of a diploma or certificate or a charge for lodging."
At the time Palo Alto summer-school refunds were offered in May, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said, "We continue to believe that summer school classes offered by the district, in every form, are of value to the community and we want to find ways to do this for our students."
Traditionally, the district has not charged for high school summer classes in English, math, history, science or living skills but did charge for "enrichment" classes such a SAT prep and college-application essay writing. It also has had a "no-questions-asked" policy on scholarship requests, Skelly said.
But the 2014 proposal put forth by Rosenberg appears to eliminate many if not all of the "enrichment" options that were offered in 2013, such as "teenage gourmet," building poetry websites, music and American Sign Language.
"We are proposing to offer intervention in literacy and math at the elementary and middle school levels and high school credit recovery and Living Skills," Rosenberg said. "We will include two math bridge programs, one for middle school 8th graders bridging to Algebra and the other for high school 9th graders bridging to Geometry."
The school board is expected to discuss the summer school proposal Tuesday, but will not take a vote on it until a later date.
Also on Tuesday's agenda is a discussion of district-wide academic calendar options for 2014-15 and beyond, and a presentation on the so-called Common Core State Standards. These are new academic standards put forth by the nation's governors and adopted by most states, including California.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.