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Poor attendance irks educators

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Poor attendance irks educators

Poor summer school attendance has some Hobbs school leaders rethinking the school district’s policy allowing parents to override the grade retention of elementary students.

School district superintendent TJ Parks told the school board Tuesday that summer school attendance has been very disappointing this year, with about 44 percent of high school students assigned to summer school actually attending. Parks said summer school programs are intended to help struggling students catch up, but he said parents have not been diligent in making sure their children attend summer classes.

“I’m not frustrated with the kids, I’m frustrated with the parents that don’t want to help their kids,” Parks told the school board. “At some point in time, education has to be important to parents.”

Parks said hundreds of students did not attend remedial summer school classes this year.

“If you’re not going to be a parent, then we’ll be the parent,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s child abuse.”

According to a handout given to school board members, 304 elementary students were identified as needing to attend the June elementary summer session. A total of 231 attended.

A total of 180 middle school students were identified as needing summer school. A total of 155 attended.

A total of 598 high school students were identified as needing summer school. Less than half, 266, attended.

Parks said the school district hires teachers for the summer sessions based upon the needs of students. Summer school classes are required for students whose parents have overridden the recommendation of school leaders for student grade retention, but the students haven’t been showing up, Parks said.

“You’re having teachers that are having very small classrooms with that,” Parks said.

Parks estimated less than 1 percent of the school district’s students are retained in their grade any given year.

“I think the parents are over-ruling us every single time,” Parks said.

Parks said the summer school program for elementary students is just a half-day program, offered in both the morning and afternoon. In addition, the school district offers a full-day summer school program for secondary-level students from sixth through 12 grades that offers credit recovery. Both of those districtwide summer school programs are for students who are performing below grade level. Both programs ended June 29.

This summer, Hobbs Municipal Schools is also offering a K-5 Plus Summer School at Edison Elementary School that’s open to all students. The K-5 Plus program is designed to help students brush up on their academic skills for 25 days before school starts. That program, which is not intended as a remedial program, started July 3 and ends Aug. 7.

Edison Elementary School principal Patricia Duran said dozens of summer school students didn’t show up for classes this summer.

“They don’t understand how important it is,” Duran said of parents. “We really don’t have any teeth because the parents know we’re not going to retain them.

“The parents do need to be forced, otherwise they won’t.”

School board member Peggy Appleton suggested moving the remedial summer school programs to July, instead of June. This year’s summer school programs were June 11-29.

Parks said summer school is about providing an academic service, not a babysitting program, to enable students to achieve academic success.

“We have to have something to hang over their head,” Parks said of grade retentions. “The worst offenders we have right now (missing summer school) are kindergartners. I think we’ve been too nice.”

School board president Gary Eidson said moving unprepared children along to the next grade level is not a good strategy.

“If we’re promoting a kid on and he’s not ready to move on, then we’re doing a disservice to the community and the student,” Eidson said.

The school board took no action Tuesday on the school district’s retention policy, but Parks said he would like to see it revisited. The current policy allows parents of elementary students to override the grade retention of students, just one time. He said the school board should use its policies or lose them.

“Some kids come (to summer school) and some kids don’t,” Parks said Wednesday. “In a state where 30 percent of your kids are proficient, it’s just frustrating when you offer things up to parents and they don’t take advantage of it.”

The school year resumes Aug. 15.

“We’re ready to rock and roll and get after it,” Parks said.

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