Benton, Lewis, West Boulevard to hold partial school during spring break

Friday, March 11, 2011 | 5:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools' spring recess runs from March 28 to April 1, but not all students and teachers will take a break from classes.

Sixty volunteer students at Benton, Alpha Hart Lewis and West Boulevard elementary schools will attend morning classes for part of the week as part of a pilot program.

This is the first time the district is holding classes during spring break, said Michelle Baumstark, community relations coordinator for the district. The main reason is to help students who are struggling academically.

"We want to help kids retain any knowledge that might be lost during the break," Baumstark said.

This will not change the current date of the last day of school, June 3.

Baumstark said the decision to try having classes over spring break was influenced by the positive effects summer school is having on student learning and retention.

"One challenge is the achievement gap and keeping students where they need to be," she said.

The district approached all of its seven Title I schools to see whether they would be interested in the pilot program. Title I schools get federal funding because 40 percent or more of students are eligible for free and discounted lunch.

The program intersected with Benton principal Troy Hogg's concern that some of his students were struggling in classes. He said he thought that the nine days schools were closed due to winter weather made it even harder for students already having a difficult time.

Hogg polled teachers to see who would be willing to work during the break. In addition, he asked each teacher to make a list of five or six students who would benefit from the extra class time.

Class attendance is voluntary. However, the families of the students that are behind are encouraged to participate, Hogg said.

Benton will hold classes from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. The school will serve students breakfast and lunch. The schedules for the other two schools were not available Friday.

All grades will be taught, and lessons will focus on math and literacy, depending on what the student needs, Hogg said.

Teachers are not contractually obligated to work those extra days. Those who participate will be compensated above and beyond their regular salary, Hogg said.

To cover the costs of the pilot program, including teacher pay, the district will use funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as stimulus money, Baumstark said.

The district hopes to receive additional state funding based on attendance in the program, she said.

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