Columbia School Board announces a commitment to summer school programs

Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 4:53 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Summer school is on for Columbia Public Schools whether state money comes to the district or not.

Superintendent Chris Belcher recommended that the district go ahead and carry out summer school planning. The issue did not originally require a vote from the board at its meeting Thursday morning, but Belcher asked for the board's permission to start sending out news releases stating the district will start committing to programs now despite uncertainty in state funding.

State Senate Bill 943, which would provide state funding for summer school core classes, is still in the legislature.

"It's just a mess," Belcher said.

Although the district is not sure what classes will qualify as "core" classes and will not know whether it will receive the money until May 7, Belcher thinks today is the day to start preparing regardless.

Belcher said that his main concern is not wanting to pull the rug out from underneath families who need summer classes. Although Belcher said he was worried a couple of months ago, he now feels more comfortable that the bill will pass. Worst-case scenario, he said, the district would need an extra $800,000 to be made up next year, but he doesn't see that happening.

"We will do everything we can to bring this in on budget," Belcher said.

Although some board members were concerned about finances, they all agreed to starting communication with schools and parents.

The board also began a new paperless system Thursday. Along with breakfast, laptops filled the table in front of board members and administrators. The board was planning to go paperless at the May 10 meeting but decided to give it a trial run on Thursday morning. Personal USB flash drives were the only purchase made to make the switch, costing about $10 each.

“Welcome to a new era,” President Jan Mees said, laughing as she opened up the floor. “And it’s Earth Day today.” Mees was one of the members to push for the paperless system.

The board also voted to accept a reinvestment plan for Title I and special education. District administrators and principals from several schools coordinated to put the plan together. The accepted plan will focus on expanding early childhood development classrooms and hiring a reading specialist to train teachers in reading intervention.

Also discussed at the meeting:

  • Plans to apply for a federal qualified school construction bond, which could award the district $10 million to $11 million;
  • The intention to start first on building the next high school rather than start with building improvements, both of which are part of a $120 million capital bond issue approved by voters April 6;
  • Comprehensive School Improvement Plan's interactive Web page, which is expected to be approved at the next meeting;
  • The last day of school is June 4, and it will be an early release day.

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