In a cost-cutting move that will reportedly save approximately $34 million, Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced on May 28th that sum- mer school classes would be cancelled for elementary and middle school students this year.

“This is a sad day for our students, our parents and families, and our school district,” said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines. “In all of my years in education, I have never seen budget news as bad as the number currently faced by this school district.

“As a result, I have made a difficult decision and I have announced the cancellation of this year’s summer school and intercession for elementary and middle school students.”

More than 225,000 students will be affected by the school district’s plan, officials said.

Dr. Judy Elliott, chief academic officer for LAUSD, relayed Cortines’ plan to eliminate summer school classes for the lower grades at a press conference outside the district’s downtown headquarters.

A.J. Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said that the decision to cancel summer classes would be most harmful to the district’s students.

“(Summer school students) are the students that need remediation or are behind in their schooling, and now they’re not going to get the help that they need,” he said. “It’s a very bad idea.”

It was not a decision that the superintendent arrived at easily, said Gayle Pollard-Terry, deputy director of communications and media relations at LAUSD.

“Superintendent Cortines regrets having to make this decision,” Pollard-Terry said. “The district is facing a potential deficit of $276 million in 2009-2010, so we have very few choices.”

After slicing $567 million from its budget, LAUSD representatives still must cut an additional $131 million before the end of the current school year.

Teachers will also feel the economic pinch with the loss of summer school classes, says Gail Rogers, an LAUSD teacher.

“Young teachers especially need to work during the summer, because they often have to pay for their student loans,” Rogers, a Venice Beach resident, noted. “I remember that for the first ten years, I needed the summer school income to make ends meet.”

Rogers said often that summer school classes provide students who need to make up classes an opportunity to develop their academics as well as to see their peers and continue to form important social bonds.

“They get to be with people that they know while they are working on improving their grades,” she said.

Duffy believes that district officials could look elsewhere for fiscal reductions instead of canceling classes.

“It’s difficult to figure out what’s what (with the budget),” he said. “We don’t know what’s real and what’s not real.”

LAUSD continues to offer summer school and intercession at the high school level for credit recovery (graduation requirements, core classes and A-G classes).

The Extended School Year Program, which serves eligible students with disabilities, will also be offered this summer.