By Jann Wiswall
“This is what we’re about,” School Board President Carl Calarco commented during the board’s discussion about giving all students the opportunity to take college courses through ECS regardless of their family’s ability to pay.
During the Sept. 8 board meeting and again at its Sept. 22 meeting, High School Principal Bob Miller pointed out that some students don’t enroll in college-level courses simply because they don’t want to ask their families for the money. While students must be academically qualified to take the classes, Miller believes that more students are qualified to enroll but do not for financial reasons.
“Who are we to judge whether a child can take a college course or not based only on their finances?” he asked during the Sept. 22 meeting.
Miller has recommended, with Superintendent Mark Ward’s support, that the board authorize the District to budget for cost of the classes beginning as early as this year, noting that ECS would not be setting a precedent on the issue: Portville and Allegany-Limestone School Districts fund the classes for their students.
To illustrate the popularity of the classes, Miller provided the board with a spreadsheet that lists all college-level courses currently offered at ECS, their costs to students and the number of students enrolled in each. Fifty ECS seniors and juniors are currently enrolled in one or more courses (159 courses total) at a cost of $12,124 for books/supplies and registration fees. Several courses are offered free of registration; most charge for books or supplies. This averages about $76 per college class, earning students 3-4 college credits each.
“Those are very inexpensive credits,” Miller pointed out. For college-bound students, they can mean significant savings on future tuition bills.
With more students enrolled, the cost to the school could rise, but even doubled to $24k, which is unlikely, Miller and Superintendent Mark Ward believe the District should fund these classes so that all students have equal opportunity.
Following discussion, the board agreed to consider a resolution at its next meeting to pay for registration fees this year. District Treasurer Aimee Kilby was asked to investigate how refunds for this semester’s fees should be handled. It also agreed that a policy regarding the issue needs to be established before budgeting for the program next year.
In other business, Shana Chudy and Tim DeChane asked the board for permission to use the ECS gymnasiums for the Ellicottville Youth Basketball program this year. They noted that the program for girls and boys ages 4-13 is growing and more space is needed for games and practices both during the week and on weekends.
The board will consider the request, but Ward noted that the school needs to prepare some policies and procedures to manage use of the facilities both from a scheduling and a financial perspective, considering that staff will be needed to open and close the school and restrict use of other spaces.
Ward thanked the board for hosting a very successful ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 20, which officially opened the school’s new multi-purpose gymnasium and other new spaces. Ward especially thanked board president Carl Calarco for his thoughtful comments at the event.
While there is still some work to be completed, all spaces are now usable, Ward said.
Miller reported that 40 students in grades 10-12 took the SAT exam 57 times last year. Twenty of those students scored 600 or higher on the reading component of the exam, and two scored 700 or higher (of a possible 800 points). In math, 15 students scored above 600 and an impressive six students scored above 700 (one of those scored 780!).
While fewer students take the ACT exams, those that did had impressive results, Miller said. Last year, ten students took the exams and exceeded state averages in all subjects except reading (by .8 points). According to ACT, this means that all students who took the exam are ready for college-level coursework.
The next meeting of the school board will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6 in the high school library. All are welcomed to attend.