District officials say they won't make up lost days of summer school

With only two days left before the school district's summer school ends, the district's shortened program was cut even shorter, raising the question of whether the district got a bang for their buck.

Of the 18 days of instruction, officials cancelled one academic day and cut short two. The loss of those days will not be made up, according to district spokeswoman Shana Kemp.

Those days cost the district $858,700, which includes the cost of staff, transportation, food services and vendors.

She said the decision to shorten the program didn't come easy, but given the recent bout of excruciating weather, it was a necessary decision.

"The decision to close during the short summer program is a very difficult one, but the health and welfare of students has to come first," she said.

Although air conditioning was pumped into most classrooms of the 105 sites where sessions were held, Kemp said that in many schools, non-classroom areas were the issue. Students' commutes to and from schools were also an issue, she added.

Any money that wasn’t used during the summer session will be used to plug shortages elsewhere in the budget although she didn't specify what or where those areas will be.

Critics have lambasted Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and her executive staff for moving forward with their Summer Learning and More program, or SLAM, with its $18 million price tag, despite the district’s murky financial picture.

However, Ackerman said that during the 18 days of classes and enrichment programs, students would learn to perform better on state tests.

"Last year, we were able to demonstrate a positive impact when students attended as little as 16 days [out of 21 days]," Kemp said. "We hope to replicate those results."

But what district officials hadn’t anticipated was the long and brutal heat wave - with temperatures in the triple digits - that claimed the lives of up to 15 people in the city, according to officials in the Health Department.

Officials had hopes to attract 28,000 students to the program. They fell short of that goal, estimating yesterday an average daily attendance of 19,078 students.

The SLAM program runs in 105 sites around the city. Afternoon enrichment programs were held in three high schools.

For morning sessions, 1,773 teachers, including special education and ESOL teachers, taught math and reading, while an additional 614 instructed afternoon enrichment classes.

Earlier this summer, 104 educators who taught this summer were laid off.