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Only about one out of 10 Buffalo elementary school students returned the summer packets of worksheets they were asked to complete, district officials said Wednesday.
The district canceled summer school this year for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, largely in an effort to save the $4.1 million that the four-week program would have cost.
Instead of offering summer school classes this year, the district sent home 70-page packets of worksheets to nearly 18,000 students.
School Board members were clearly disappointed by the fact that only 1,938 students returned their packets.
“My goodness. That’s not very many,” said Rosalyn L. Taylor, who represents the East District.
Superintendent Pamela C. Brown was more positive about the situation.
“Let’s not be too discouraged about the percentage of packets that were returned,” she said. “The fact that the packets were sent home with students provided parents with the opportunity to know what kinds of activities would be beneficial over the summer. We believe many more packets were actually used than the number that were returned.”
Kai D. Lewis, an administrator who oversaw summer school, said the district extended the deadline by nearly a week in the hopes that more students would return the packets, which cost about $40,000 to produce.
Lewis said administrators sent out robocalls to parents and posted notices on school websites to remind them to return the packets.
The district offered incentives to students who returned their packets but did not announce what those incentives would be until after students would have completed the packets. Students who returned their packets got pencils, bookmarks and erasers, and were entered in a drawing. One e-reader tablet was given away in each school, and two students will receive laptops at next week’s board meeting.
Many parents said they did not understand why the packets were sent home and complained about the quality of the packets.
Board members agreed that they want the district to reinstitute summer school in 2013.
“Given the money that was spent and the results we got, we need to have summer school,” said board President Mary Ruth Kapsiak.
The district in recent years has funded summer school through its Title I funds, which are federal anti-poverty funds. In the district’s proposed Title I budget for 2012-13, $354,576 was earmarked for summer school – less than one-tenth the amount the district spent in many recent years.
Brown said in an interview that the district is trying to identify additional funds elsewhere in the budget for summer school.
She said administrators have begun planning the summer school program for 2013 but said it’s too early to know exactly what the program will consist of or how many students it will serve. Plans should be finalized in March, she said.
“We want to take enough time to plan it out well,” she said. “We want to provide opportunities for as many students as possible to engage in credit recovery or just have an extended learning opportunity over the summer.”
The district did offer summer school for students in seventh through 12th grade this summer.
Here’s a summary of the results:
• Eighty-six percent of the seventh- and eighth-graders who attended the half-day summer school – 1,034 students – were promoted.
• Fifty-five percent of the seventh- and eighth-graders who attended the full-day summer school program – 259 students – were promoted. Those are students who had failed multiple courses the previous year.
• Of the 2,740 high school students who took Regents exams this summer, 32 percent passed.

email: mpasciak@buffnews.com