June 8, 2001 — Most public school students in the territory have a week of instruction left in a year that saw a three-week-long teachers' strike, but Education officials are unsure whether there will be summer school for those kids affected by the interruption.
During a meeting of the Senate Education Committee on Friday, Education Commissioner Dr. Ruby Simmonds said her department is waiting to hear back from the federal government on whether $800,000 in grant money can be used to fund a summer program. Because the Education Department has no other funding options, there will be no summer school if the federal grant money cant be used.
"Summer school is still up in the air," Simmonds told senators. "I realize that we have to make a decision on that next week. Really, the only holdup of summer school is the authorization from the federal government."
Sen. David Jones voiced concern that if authorization to use the $800,000 doesnt come, students who fell behind in their studies due to an 18-day teacher strike last year would be further harmed. He noted that Gov. Charles Turnbull may soon be sending a supplemental budget to the Legislature for approval. If that is the case, he said Simmonds should make a request for $800,000 to fund a summer program in case the federal money doesnt come through.
"The strike impacted the quality of education," Jones said.
The school year was already extended a week to June 15 because of delays in the start of instruction last September due to various construction projects at schools throughout the territory.
Just before the strike ended last December, Simmonds announced that the 18 days lost to the dispute would not be made up. However, she said then that the department was working on a plan that would offer students and teachers the opportunity to make up lost class time during the summer with a six-week program of classes — "remediation as well as for enrichment."
According to Education officials in December, the classes were to run about four hours, possibly with lunch provided. The plan was worked out by the School Calendar Task Force made up of Simmonds and representatives of the American Federation of Teachers, the Education Administration Association and the Office of Collective Bargaining. It was approved by Turnbull.