Harford proposes tuition for summer classes Charge would offset costs, help reduce drop-out rate among pupils in program

November 16, 1995|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,SUN STAFF

Strapped for cash, the Harford County School System is proposing charging elementary students tuition to take summer mathematics and reading remedial programs.

The four-week reading and math program, which serves about 2,000 students each year, costs about $310,000.

Charging a fee, currently estimated at about $60, would offset some of the cost but, more important, it would encourage parents to make a commitment to the program, school officials said.

The summer school dropout rate for the elementary programs is staggering.

About 16 percent of the students never attend their first summer class, said Sandra Wallis, supervisor of English Arts and Reading.

Of the students who do come, only 50 percent attend three of the four weeks, she said.

Only 16 percent make it through the entire program.

"I think parents are well intentioned but something else comes up and they choose to let their children miss classes," said Mrs. Wallis, speaking at the Bel Air Middle School library during a budget work session before last night's school board meeting.

But the county schools, with a projected increase of 1,000 students to a total of 37,830 students next year, can't afford to pay teachers to teach half-empty classrooms.

Expecting possible federal and state cuts, Superintendent Ray R. Keech has proposed an operating budget increase of 3.5 percent for the 1996-1997 school year. It's the smallest increase in a school budget for 25 years, he said.

Although no budget cuts are official, Dr. Keech said he prepared a no-frills budget at the recommendation of County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.

The proposed $191.5 million operating budget, compared with this year's $185 million, includes enough money to maintain the current level of students.

That means more teachers would be hired to keep classes about the same size.

The budget includes money to hire 93 teachers, including 38 elementary school teachers and 35 middle and high school teachers.

A "wish list" of nearly $2.5 million also has been submitted to the school board by the superintendent.

"This is what we would spend additional money on if it becomes available," Dr. Keech said.

The "wish list" includes about $900,000 to hire 24 additional teachers to reduce class size.

Harford now has about 9,400 students in nine high schools, 8,500 students in eight middle schools and nearly 19,000 students in 31 elementary schools.

A public hearing on the proposed operating budget, including the possibility of charging tuition for summer school, will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air.

The proposed operating budget must be approved by a majority school board members before it is presented to Mrs. Rehrmann.

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