Some Lucia Mar pupils give up day off

Some Lucia Mar students are urging their peers to sacrifice their Saturdays in an attempt to recapture state funding and possibly prevent some layoffs at the South County school district.

Students who have been absent this school year can make up a day by attending Saturday school, a move district administrators and union officials say could save jobs by helping recoup average daily attendance funding from the state.

“Seventy positions isn’t just 70 desks — it’s 70 families,” Arroyo Grande High School senior Bailey Headrick told the school board on Tuesday night, referring to the number of positions slated for layoffs.

On Thursday, Headrick, 17, said more than 40 students in French classes planned to attend Saturday school, as well as most of the football team.

So far, the Lucia Mar Unified School District has held Saturday school six times this past year for its elementary school students. Andy Stenson, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said that about 1,300 students have attended those sessions. The district has more than 10,000 students.

Students who have not been absent can still attend a Saturday session, but the district will not receive any additional money.

The district faces a $5 million cut next year to its current $52 million general fund budget. The school board voted Tuesday to issue 83 initial layoff notices for 71.9 teaching, counseling and administrative positions.

Arroyo Grande High School students have asked their classmates to attend Saturday school this weekend and March 13. So far, at least 10 teachers are volunteering their time to hold ceramics, life skills and advancement placement classes among other courses, said Andrea Lee, an area administrator for Arroyo Grande High School.

The district now receives $4,964 per student in state money for average daily attendance. That amount could drop to $4,743 next school year.

This year’s enrollment has dropped about 70 students from last year, reducing the average daily attendance funding the district receives from the state. Stenson said the district loses $30 to $35 for each day a student is absent — regardless of whether the absence is excused or not.

“If every student in the district attended one Saturday, the district could recoup $300,000 in funding,” Kevin Statom, president of the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association, told the school board.

The district sends attendance rates to the state in mid-March that will affect funding next year, Stenson said.

Students at any of the elementary schools in the Five Cities area can attend Saturday school at Grover Beach Elementary, he said. Oceano Elementary will have Saturday sessions for its students, and Nipomo Elementary and Dorothea Lange Elementary will hold sessions for the elementary students in the Nipomo area.

Students should let their schools know whether they will attend Saturday school by the Wednesday before the session, Stenson said.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated on Twitter by following @SouthCountyBeat.