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Seattle finds "virtual" band-aid after axing summer school

As Seattle Public Schools begin their final week of classes, the district is turning to technology to rescue some summer school programs it cut last year. SPS will offer online courses at Franklin and possibly another high school, and three others plan to extend their school-year virtual learning into the summer. Cleveland and Rainier Beach high schools will have limited classroom programming.

That still leaves students in at least half Seattle’s public high schools with few options for summer remedial classes. This will be the second summer with no traditional summer school in Seattle – a cut that district officials say saved about $2 million.

Wendy London, the district’s interim assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the online coursework preserves some options for students at a much lower cost to the district.

“We may not be able to afford staff to teach, you know, ten different classes, for example. So when you use virtual learning, there’s an opportunity for students to enroll in any number of classes with the support of one teacher,” London said. 

A couple of elementary schools will coordinate programs of their own, and a number of private organizations run accredited summer school programs for a fee – typically several hundred dollars per course. Seattle Public Schools publishes a list of summer school options here. Other nearby districts, including Tacoma Public Schools, have preserved traditional summer school programming.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.