Summer school was eliminated for students entering first through fifth grades in the Utica City School District as part of this year's budget cuts. Educators say such classes are crucial for kids who need that extra boost before entering the next school year. Sarah Blazonis talked with district officials about resources that will be available for students this fall.
UTICA, N.Y. -- The end of July normally signals the end of summer school for first through fifth graders in the Utica district. This year, the program never got the chance to start, a victim of budget cuts.
"Many kids are fine summer vacation, ten weeks, but that piece of instruction for the month of July just does give kids an extra boost," said Lori Eccleston, director of K-12 curriculum and instruction for the district.
Eccleston says hundreds of students typically attended the program. It focused on reviewing skills learned the previous year and getting an idea of what was ahead in the next grade to make sure students who may have struggled were at the same level as their peers.
Resources will be available for students come fall, including intervention labs for kindergarten through second grade students.
"They're lagging behind in certain skill areas, they go into a lab at a scheduled time each day and they work on that specific skill," said Eccleston.
The district also plans to work on readiness to learn skills, offer speech, language and occupational therapy services and after school tutoring. But educators say there are other benefits to summer school that can't be replaced.
"The social element and the physical element, the safe space and positive peer interactions, are critical to students' academic success," said Patrice Hallock, chair of education programs at Utica College.
Summer school is still available for high school students through Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES.
BOCES Superintendent Howard Mettelman says this cut is just one he's seen districts deal with as a result of inequitable state aid distribution.
"Unless we correct this issue of equity, future programs will have to be reduced and opportunities for students will be lost," said Mettelman.
The Utica district says it's too early to say whether summer school could return next year.
In addition to high school courses, federally-funded special education summer school is also still available in the Utica district.