Firm could give schools summer lift

Tuesday, December 9, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:20 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Columbia Board of Education on Monday night decided to continue discussing hiring an outside firm to run the district’s summer school program. The firm, Newton Learning, already provides summer programs for more than 70 school districts in Missouri.

Several district officials said they will speak with administrators in the Francis Howell School District about Newton. That district, near St. Louis, already contracts with the firm. The board also plans to speak with the Columbia Community Teachers Association before making a final decision.

District had doubts

Assistant Superintendent Skip Deming said the district considered working with Newton last year and decided against it because they thought Newton couldn’t enhance or better the district’s summer offerings for students.

“We need to revisit that question because we feel that they have improved their program and that there are advantages for our students by working with Newton as an independent contractor,” Deming said.

Longer school hours possible

If the board decides to contract with Newton, students would go to school for longer hours, but on fewer days. Also, the morning courses would be more traditionally structured and afternoon courses would be more activity-based.

Deming also said Newton would not work with all of the district’s summer school programs. He said Newton probably wouldn’t work with the tuition-based kindergarten-through-eighth-grade enrichment program, the music program or the extended school year for special education students.

District funds would increase

The administration projected that the district could generate an additional $2 million to $3.3 million for district funds by contracting with the firm for selected summer learning programs.

Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent for administration, reported that Newton would charge the district $600 per student and would target 3,250 students. If the board decides to work with Newton, its contract would only be for one year.

Cowherd said the district would hire and pay the teachers, but Newton would recruit some of the teachers.

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