Summer school specialty courses cut in Alberni

Summer school in Alberni has been scaled back by one week with only math, science, social studies and English being offered this year.

Course selection will be limited to the basics after specialty courses were nixed from the summer school term, School District 70 Superintendent Cam Pinkerton said.

VAST is home to the district’s summer school program. The program will run for four weeks between July and August this year, which is down from six weeks last year.

In 2011, more than 250 students from Grades 9-12 completed course upgrades through summer school.

Pinkerton doesn’t expect that many students this year though. “We can’t offer the same breadth of programs like we normally do because of budget reasons,” he said.

According to VAST principal Tom McEvay, specialty summer programs taught in the past aren’t being offered this year.

Gone are outdoor education, project based learning and a physical education program, he said. “We’ll just be concentrating on core academics,” which McEvay defined as math, English and social studies.

The reason for the cut is budgetary, McEvay said. “Summer school adds to the district’s overall enrolment,” he said. “They don’t see a budget increase with summer school.”

The scale back is an early warning signal of further cutbacks to come, Alberni District Teachers Union President Ken Zydyk said. “We see this as the sign of a threat to programs and services next year and in future years,” he said.

The province is putting school districts in a vice and students are feeling the squeeze, Zydyk said. “Our union is disappointed that opportunities for students to succeed are being curtailed by ongoing financial challenges because of the province,” he said.

The summer program is ideal for students who didn’t achieve a 40 per cent mark in a course at school. But it’s also for kids who may have achieved 50 per cent but need a higher mark to get into a post-secondary program.

Students attend either in the morning or afternoon depending on the courses they are taking. Some attend all day.

Up to 80 per cent of the students who are attending the summer session are from Alberni District Secondary School and 20 per cent of the students attend VAST regularly. The gender break down is 50-50.

Summer school attendance this year will be based on a first come, first served basis, McEvay said. Students can register either at VAST or at ADSS.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com