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Summer school faces cutbacks in offerings

New law has changed the rules for summer sessions; it appears fewer students will be able to choose from fewer offerings.

Pasco County's summer school offerings could be substantially smaller and open to fewer students this year to make room in the budget for more after-school tutoring programs.

School officials studying the changes say nothing is certain, but it appears that summer school will be offered only to students who are performing far below their grade level, immigrant students who speak little English and some students with severe learning disabilities.

On the chopping block are driver's education, a summer science program at the University of South Florida for gifted students and high school courses such as physical education that many students opt to take during the summer, administrators told the School Board on Tuesday.

Similar changes are underfoot in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando counties. Last spring, lawmakers changed the way the state pays for summer school and remedial programs _ and created a shortfall for many school districts. While the change gives districts greater flexibility in the types of programs they offer, they are getting less money than before. Pasco officials say they are about $110,000 short over last year.

Pasco school officials want to give struggling students more help during the regular academic year by lengthening the school day. Doing that, though, means spending money traditionally set aside for summer school.

"We really have to rethink how we've been doing summer school," said assistant superintendent Sandy Ramos.

School officials will present formal recommendations to the School Board in March. Students may be asked to foot the bill for many of the programs that the district has paid for in the past. Each summer, for example, the district spends about $12,000 to send about 40 students to USF for a two-week summer science program. This year, students may have to pay the $525 tuition themselves.