School system balks at reducing intersession program

School system balks at reducing intersession program

Administrators have backed away from proposed changes to Mount Vernon Community Schools intersession program, chief among them a lottery system for spots, after the moves sparked outrage from parents. 

The controversy began after administrators sent a letter home to parents August 23 outlining changes to the year-round schools October break. Students get three three-week vacations throughout the year, rather than one long summer break, and many parents depend on intersession for child care.     Among the tweaks considered, priority would be given to students with extra academic needs, with a lottery to follow for other interested families.

We recognize there may not be enough slots for all current students, wrote Lacey Gandy, an intersession coordinator with Alexandria City Public Schools. 

That sentence in particular sparked concern in parents like Jonathan Vaile. The intersession program, which offers classes for academically struggling children as well as elective-like courses for other students, is one of the reasons he enrolled his two kids in Mount Vernon. 

Thats the initial letter that scared parents, because if Im understanding this document correctly it is introducing the possibility that some Mount Vernon students might not be accommodated in intersession, he said. I dont want to make waves and cause a lot of trouble, but at the same time I think parents at Mount Vernon are getting frustrated with the communication were receiving.

Fellow parent Gary Griffin joined the chorus of voices against the proposed changes to the programs. A second letter sent home apologizing for the controversy, written by principal Tina Radomsky, did little to assuage him. 

Children were not ever guaranteed to get into a specific class, he said, but there was never the possibility they might be denied from the program all together.

Its just classic people try to make a change and they dont see [the consequences], Griffin said. Either theyre too dumb to see it or they know its going to cause a lot of trouble and they try to sneak it in the backdoor and hope nobody is going to catch it.

But the opposition was enough to prompt school officials to reconsider. While administrators will push academically challenged students to attend, there will be no lottery for other students, said GwenCarol Holmes, Alexandria City Public Schools chief academic officer.  

Holmes believes the controversy is just a misunderstanding. The previous year’s program was augmented by a limited Lincoln Center grant dollars that have since dried up and officials have long struggled to find enough state certified teachers for the program.