Discussion on the proposal Tuesday was only the first of several that were expected to take place over the next two or three months.
In other school districts, fees range between $250 and $350 for a semester class, Glendale Unified Supt. Michael Escalante said.
“It concerns us that not every parent can afford that,” he said during the board meeting. “But on the other hand, is it better to offer to some students who can afford it, and in turn, will have a summer school program, than nothing at all?”
School board members must choose between doing nothing, or working with a third-party community group to offer fee-based classes, either for students who are academically ambitious, or for those who need to retake failed classes, or both, administrators said.
Summer school is one of the most effective intervention methods for low-performing students, Escalante said.
But the intervention budget is increasingly shrinking and encroaches on the general fund budget, which wasn’t a problem during more flush times, administrators said.
Last year, the district had a $64,000 shortfall for summer school, despite reducing expenses by more than $26,000, Thorossian said.
The state Legislature last year granted school districts the authority to sweep summer school funds into the general revenue pool. Without summer school, the district can spend the $2.15 million elsewhere. And Glendale Unified expects to receive roughly $2.3 million for intervention funding no matter the status of its summer school program.
One suggestion floated at the meeting was to forge a partnership similar to a Glendale Community College program at Rosemont Middle School, which is now operated by the Glendale Educational Foundation.
Board members also wanted staff to return in one month with more details about online courses that could compliment summer school options.
Board member Christine Walters also requested figures on how many free or reduced lunch students take advancement courses.
“I don’t want to see those kids left out,” she said. “I think that could be helpful [in deliberations].”
Board members also sought community donations that could fund summer school scholarships for needy students.
“It is an extraordinarily sorry statement where we’ve reaching a point in public education when we ask kids to pay for summer school,” school board President Mary Boger said.