Hartselle turns away summer school students
Despite partnership and preregistration, Decatur and Morgan County students left with few options
By Bayne Hughes
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Morgan County school officials are upset that Hartselle High turned away about 40 county students trying to attend summer school despite a joint agreement between the two systems and Decatur.
Morgan County and Decatur school officials said their students paid pre-registration but, when they arrived for the first day of classes, Hartselle school officials told them that they didn't have enough students for certain classes.
This leaves these students scrambling to figure out how to make up credits they planned to earn in the summer.
The problem is such an issue for Morgan County that school officials are considering canceling the agreement next year and either conducting their own summer classes or forming a partnership with Decatur only.
Falkville High Principal Sue Wood estimated she had about a dozen students try unsuccessfully to take summer school at Hartselle.
"I'm not at all pleased," Wood said.
"What really irritates me is the attitude of the (Hartselle) administrators and their lack of caring and concern for the kids."
Under the 10-year-old agreement approved annually by each school board, Decatur provides summer school for two two-week sessions in June, alternating summers between Austin and Decatur high schools.
Morgan County and Hartselle alternate years offering two two-week sessions in July. Each session equals one semester. Tuition is $100 per class.
Hartselle High Principal Jerry Reeves said he doesn't understand what the problem is because his school operates summer under the same rules as Decatur and Morgan County.
He said Decatur and Morgan County both canceled classes in the past because of lack of interest.
He said each class must have 18 students for the school to hold it and there is no guarantee that the class will be available.
He decides if a class has enough students and then makes a recommendation to Hartselle Superintendent Mike Reed.
"I amazed this is an issue," Reeves said. "We can't offer a class with only seven or eight people. Then we lose money because we don't make enough to pay the teacher's salary."
Brewer High Principal Frances Couey, who estimated Hartselle turned away about 15 of her students, disagreed. She said that she would combine classes and a have a teacher teach two classes in one to make sure the students got what they needed.
"We never turned away students," Couey said. "The point is not to make money. We're here for the kids."
Priceville High Principal Guy Bowling wasn't sure how many of his students missed out on summer school, but he said he understands both sides of the issue.
He suggested the school systems could use some state help in funding summer school.
"It's a Catch-22 situation," Bowling said. "You can't lose money, and you've got to pay the teachers and administrators, but, when a child fails a class, he goes to summer school expecting you to offer the class you said you would offer."
Austin counselor Lewis White said he had about 20 try unsuccessfully to go to Hartselle, while Decatur High counselor George Sims said he was unsure how many from his school but knows there were several.
Both said the problem could be lack of interest in the July sessions.
Sims said Hartselle held four English classes and one algebra 1B class.
In contrast, Decatur offered 17 different classes at its two June sessions. More students usually attend the June sessions than the July sessions.
Phil Hastings, Decatur's supervisor of safety and alternative education, said it's difficult financially for a school system to hold summer school without forming a partnership with a neighboring school system.
He said most systems offer only two semesters, but the three systems formed the partnership to give the students more opportunities to make up failed classes.
Hastings said Decatur and Austin students could make up any missed credits at Horizon High School or through online classes.
Morgan County doesn't have a Horizon-like program, so students will have to make up credits in other ways.
The principals said students' choices are taking online classes through the state's Alabama Connecting Classes for Educators and Students Statewide program or, if scheduling allows, replacing an elective class with a required class.
Morgan County Superintendent Bob Balch said he is still investigating the situation and hasn't had a chance to talk to Hartselle Superintendent Reed.
He said he plans to make a report at a future county school board meeting.
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