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School systems save money, staff by moving credit courses to the Web
Elaine Wade works in the computer lab at the Lanier Career Academy to answer questions and help summer school students. - photo by Tom Reed

For the most part, the days of traditional summer school are gone.

In many cases in Hall and Jackson counties, instead of bored students pretending to pay attention to a teacher review a lesson, students are now leading themselves through Web-based learning.

"Summer school today is an online program that will allow students to recover credit through a program called e2020. This is a self-paced computer program," said Greg Williams, assistant principal at West Hall High School who oversees the system’s summer school program.

The Jefferson City Schools System also uses the online courses for its high school level summer school courses.

For the both the Hall County and Gainesville City school systems, summer school credit recovery courses are held at Lanier Career Academy for high school students.

Gainesville City Schools System officials say that their high school remediation courses have "always been online," but for county schools, the Web version is a new development.

In the face of state funding cuts, offering online summer school courses allows systems to reduce the number of staff needed to teach the classes, which helps to reduce costs.

"One instructor facilitating an e2020 class can manage many more students, therefore keeping costs down," Williams said.

"Students may attend a lab (at the Career Academy) or they may work from anywhere that they have Internet access. But all major exams and tests must be taken at the school under teacher supervision. Students stay in contact with the lab instructor by e-mail and the instructor e-mails weekly progress reports to the parents."

The online courses have not only saved school systems money, they are also less expensive for the students, especially in Hall County.

"The fee for summer school last year was $350. This year the cost of summer school was $175 if a student registered before May 28 and $200 after that," Williams said.

"This year, our enrollment is pushing 130 students compared to around 60 students last year."

Jefferson High School Principal Kevin Smith says the cost of summer school for his system is the same as last year, $50 per course. Enrollment this year is only slightly higher, 45 students.

In order to save money, school systems have also adjusted how they conduct remediation sessions for elementary and middle school students.

The Georgia Department of Education requires that third-, fifth and eighth-grade students who fail portions of the Criterion Referenced Competency Test retake the state-mandated exam. Traditionally, that is done during summer school.

This year, Hall County and Jefferson system officials used the last few weeks of the regular school year to tutor those students and offer retesting before classes ended for the summer.

While Gainesville maintained its summer sessions for those students, there were some changes to the traditional setup.

"In the past, we have offered (CRCT summer school) to the other grades outside of the ones required by the state," said Shirley Whitaker, assistant superintendent of Gainesville schools. "But this, as a way to cut back on spending, we’re only offering the summer school to third-, fifth- and eighth-grade students."

The CRCT is used by state education officials to measure academic progress for elementary and middle school students. The test results of third-, fifth- and eighth- grade students are often used to determine if a student will be promoted to the next grade level.