Good deal for summer school

Published 9:45 pm Monday, February 2, 2015

When observing the workings of government, if you’re someone who likes to see taxpayer money wisely spent, it’s always easy to point the finger and cry foul.

But it helps to broaden your focus and think about what might be achieved in good time by whatever that money is purchasing.

The closest adage to sum it up that I can think of is the good old: You have to spend money to make money. Folks who think big and have the confidence to back their dreams with a checkbook are often more successful than the miser.

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Of course, they are often apt to fail bigger, too, which brings to mind another hackneyed saying I’ll trot out: Risk equals reward.

Last week, Suffolk Public Schools and United Way of South Hampton Roads announced a partnership they hope our community will make in the lives of our children.

It’s an absolute no-brainer for anyone looking to invest a few stray dollars to improve Suffolk.

The United for Children program will expand summer school, open for those academically in the bottom quarter, for elementary school students.

An extra two hours daily added to the program, which will be expanded from four to six weeks, will allow latitude for students to be rewarded for hard work and good attendance during the first four hours.

As well as Zumba, tag-football and other fun things during what’s potentially a bit of a drag for students — sitting in a classroom while their friends are enjoying their freedom — the concept also involves increasing teaching and support staff.

While elementary summer school in Suffolk currently costs the district about $130,000, revamping it will cost an extra $167,000, according to United Way.

The organization hopes to raise that money from grants, businesses and the generosity of private donors.

The main goal of the concept is to cut down on the number of retained students. Every time a child has to repeat a year of school, it costs taxpayers about another $10,000.

United Way’s director of education initiatives, Sarah Bishop, noted that saving only 17 students from being retained will pay for revamping elementary summer school in Suffolk.

Based on the results when the program was piloted at P.B. Young Sr. Elementary School in Norfolk, the program is destined to make money for Suffolk taxpayers.

And beyond the money saved by fewer students repeating, what about the impact of those students entering the workforce earlier and being more successful in life?

Sounds like a good investment to me.