Fewer summer school course offerings leave Shelby County students on a waitlist

Shelby County Schools’ summer school registration closed last week with a waiting list of 200 students and many parents worrying whether their children will get to take the courses they need.

Only four high schools in Memphis, compared with six last summer, are offering summer courses—the result of a 35 percent cut in the district’s $1.8 million budget for the program. Last year, with a summer school budget of more than $2.8 million, there was no waitlist.

“We try to accommodate all parents and students, but we’re dealing with limited time and tighter funding,” said Denise Swan, a summer school program coordinator.

The budget cut was based on the district’s decreased enrollment due primarily to the absorption of students and schools by new municipal school districts created following the 2013 merger of Shelby County Schools with Memphis City Schools, said district spokesman Christian Ross.

About 15 percent of the district’s students take classes during the summer, whether to make up failed coursework or to take additional courses.

During last week’s three-day registration period, Karen Brown was among parents who stood in line to register Wednesday at Ridgeway High School. She managed to register her rising 10th-grader for a class, but other parents were turned away by school officials due to crowd congestion.

“Only four sites open for high school isn’t enough when you’ve got so many students in Memphis failing,” said Brown, who arrived at Ridgeway at 8 a.m., four hours before registration opened.

Rachel Dubose, whose son will be a senior at Ridgeway, said she waited for four hours Tuesday before being turned away. She was back at Ridgeway two hours before registration opened at noon on Wednesday but had to leave at 1:30 to get to work—again without registering her son for a math course that he needs to graduate.

“Should my kid get punished because I can’t take off work again?” Dubose asked. “What happens to kids when the classes get filled because their parents can’t be there?”

"Only four sites open for high school isn’t enough when you’ve got so many students in Memphis failing."

Students who can’t take needed summer courses will have the option to take an online credit recovery course in the fall, Swan said.

The district plans for summer school enrollment based on the previous summer’s enrollment, which was 6,700 students. But the smaller budget impacted how many students the district was able to accommodate this year, Swan said.

“Planning for summer school is a tight turnaround, as many students don’t know if they will need it or not before report cards come out at the end of the year,” she said.

The budget for next summer’s program is relatively unchanged from this year. However, to improve the registration process, district officials hope to move to an online system, which the district will roll out in July for the coming school year.

Students at charter and municipal schools also had the option to register last Thursday if space was available for district summer programs. However, students with Shelby County Schools got first priority.

Only three municipal districts—in Cordova, Arlington and Collierville—are offering summer programs.

A complete list of summer schools and their courses can be found on Shelby County Schools’ district website.


Editor’s note: This story corrects municipality names in the penultimate paragraph.