Although it’s nearly the beginning of winter, summer school was the main topic of discussion at the Columbia Board of Education meeting Monday night.
The board voted to give Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase authority to negotiate a contract with Newton Learning Systems, a private educational company responsible for more than 70 Missouri summer school programs.
The contract between Chase and Newton Learning Systems will be based on feedback from parents and staff and will take into account the board’s suggestions for modifications to the program in order to meet the needs of the Columbia School District.
Last summer was the first time Columbia schools used Newton to offer classes to its students at no charge. Some officials said the program was an overall success.
“I think summer school is great,” said board member Russell Still. “I’d like to see everybody in summer school. Especially everybody who wants to go to summer school and in the past has not gone because of finances.”
Cheryl Cozette, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, presented Monday the successes and failures of the program based on information received from teachers and parents. She also presented a study comparing summer school participants to a sample of students that did not participate. She said it’s difficult to interpret the study because it was the first time the district had compiled that kind of information.
“We do know that all of our students who attended summer school made gains in reading,” Cozette said.
One of the things the board discussed changing in the Newton program was the incentives awarded to summer school students based on attendance. Columbia students were awarded more than $350,000 last summer. The incentive program was popular among parents and students, but it received a mixed reception from teachers and staff.
The board discussed making other changes to the program, including altering the curriculum, changing transportation and facility preparations, adjusting the length of school days, and opening communication lines with parents and the community.
The total number of Columbia students participating in summer school was 6,300, with 5,470 participating in the Newton Learning Systems program.
Also on Monday, the school board passed a motion accepting Huebert Builders Inc. as the construction company that will renovate Mill Creek Elementary School. Costs for the project are estimated at more than $1.7 million.
— Missourian reporter Katie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.