Following the lead of the largest school system in San Luis Obispo County and other districts in California, Templeton school administrators are turning to Saturday school sessions to recapture state money lost when students are absent.
Templeton Unified School District hopes that by following what is believed to be a growing trend in California, it could save a teacher position despite state budget cuts.
The district invited students who had absences during this academic year to the first such session Saturday.
By attending that voluntary session and another set for May 21, Templeton Unified hopes to boost its average-daily attendance funding from Sacramento.
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The 10,000-student Lucia Mar Unified School District in the South County started these sessions during the 2009-10 academic year.
Of the much smaller Templeton district’s 2,400 students, 72 students are absent each day out of the 180 days classes are in session, according to school officials.
That translates into about a 97 percent attendance rate, Superintendent Joe Koski said.
The district stands to retroactively collect $32 per student, per day from the Saturday sessions.
Administrators hope the Saturdays bring in $60,000 to save one teaching position, Koski said.
Templeton High School Assistant Principal Erik Lewis spearheaded the effort.
“In Templeton, we’re a small town with great teachers and parents,” Lewis said. “And we’re asking them to help us out and try to save jobs.”
Like most school districts across California, Templeton Unified is expecting more budget cuts because of falling state tax revenue.
Templeton expects that revenue for the 2011-12 academic year will be $300,000 less than proposed spending in its $17 million general fund.
That shortfall is about $700,000 less than the district’s actual deficit. In March, the school board told administrators to spend reserves to avoid layoffs.
The Saturday sessions are one part in the district’s plan to cover the $300,000. Five teaching positions could be cut, and the Saturday sessions are expected to save one of those positions.
District administrators are also in talks with organizations representing non-teaching staff and managers to pursue furloughs — forced unpaid time off — but not pay cuts, Koski said.
Lucia Mar raised about $94,000 before expenses last year with a similar Saturday school program. Officials there said expenses were minimal.
It also held five Saturday sessions this school year, grossing about $57,000.
It’s slightly different in Templeton because teachers and staff there are volunteering their time during Saturday sessions. Nature walks and test reviews are among the lessons planned.
Students who have never been absent can still attend the events, but the district will not receive any additional money for their presence.
Senior staff writer Cynthia Lambert contributed to this report.