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Parents stand outside of Ridgeway High School on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. Long lines piled up for summer school registration.

Parents stand outside of Ridgeway High School on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. Long lines piled up for summer school registration.

Caroline Bauman

Budget cuts shut 198 Shelby County high schoolers out of summer school

The final tally of students shut out of Shelby County’s cash-strapped summer programs is in and nearly 200 high schoolers did not make the cut.

District officials confirmed that 198 students were blocked from summer classes after the district’s wait list closed earlier this month. Of the district’s four high school sites, Ridgeway High School turned the most students away — 117.

This year marked the first time that Shelby County has not been able to serve every student who sought to enroll in summer school. Though fewer students sought spots, declining enrollment districtwide meant Shelby County Schools had to cut its spending on summer school by 35 percent — from $2.8 million in 2014 to $1.8 million this year.

About 6,208 students are enrolled in summer courses this year, compared to 6,700 last summer. The district was able to accommodate all 2,428 elementary students who needed summer classes, as well as 3,780 of the high schoolers who signed up for classes.

The district reduced the number of high schools open over the summer from six to four, and there was no room for the 5 percent remaining high school applicants.

“This is frustrating for everybody,” said Latonya Harvey on June 4, when she joined other exasperated parents in line to register their children for summer school. “They’re turning away kids who need classes and kids who just want to learn.”

Harvey stood in line for two hours to sign up her son, who is going into the 12th grade at Kirby High School. She didn’t think at the time that he was going to make it into his class.

District officials said they did not know what grade the shut-out students are heading into, or what courses they sought to take. But because enrollment operated on a first come, first served basis, it’s likely that some of them are missing a crucial opportunity to make up failed courses.

Students who can’t take needed summer courses will have the option to take an online credit recovery course in the fall, according to district spokesman Christian Ross. They can also enroll in courses through the district’s Messick Adult Center.

Michael Demster, assistant principal at Middle College High School, said it was regrettable that so many students who might need remedial classes are not able to take them, but it was also a positive that students are seeking out courses to take during the summer.

“Like a lot of issues education-related, there is both a positive and a negative side,” said Demster, who runs a district summer camp. “Of course, we want every student to have the opportunity to learn this summer. But those who didn’t make it into classes will have options in the fall.”