Washington, D.C. — It’s not a holiday for most of the nation, but in this small town, it is.
For the past several years, students at Washington’s Washington Heights Academy of Arts and Sciences have had a rare chance to relax and enjoy the holiday season at the public schools.
For the students, the occasion has been a big relief, with the schools having an annual “family” celebration and a school Christmas party on Jan. 31.
But there have been some problems, including a lack of staffing, a lack, say students, of adequate supplies for the holiday party, and the fact that there has been no graduation for the teachers.
With so much work to be done, teachers have been asking for more time off from classes and the school system has responded by offering a $5,000 bonus for those who get at least 90 percent of the work done.
The reward has led to a growing sense of frustration among the students and teachers, as well as some of the district’s top leaders.
They have begun to question the wisdom of the program, saying the district is trying to do more to improve attendance and quality of instruction, even though attendance has been declining.
The district has been spending about $100,000 a week to staff the schools, and is now looking to double that to $150,000, district officials said.
The district is also working on plans to expand summer programs, such as one in which students are given two days off each week.
But in an interview last week, district Superintendent Michael G. Thomas Jr. said that the program had been effective in improving attendance and that it was not a priority to give up the program.
The benefits are not nearly enough, according to many of the students who attended the school’s annual family celebration.
They said the school district has spent $500,000 to hire a professional teacher who is a member of the school board, and that they have been asked to pay the teachers $2,000 each to help them work more hours and pay for supplies.
The students, however, have also been told they are no longer eligible for federal assistance to pay for the school year, which is starting on Jan 15.
Thomas said that if the district did not offer a financial incentive, it would be taking $50,000 in federal grants that it receives from the federal government.
He also said that since the program was launched, he has had no discussions with teachers about getting off the program and would be making no decisions on that until the district could discuss the matter.
The school system is trying a variety of approaches to try to reduce the attrition rate among teachers, said Mary L. Foskett, the principal of Washington Heights, one of the districts largest elementary schools.
The goal is to get students back on the school floor by the end of the year.
But many teachers said the district has not been as transparent as it should be, especially since a new report released by the Education Department said that Washington Heights is in dire need of an increase in staffing to help it reach its goal of increasing attendance.
Foskette said the department report showed that attendance rates had fallen by about half since the start of the fiscal year.
It also showed that the district was not addressing the high number of dropouts and those students who had been waiting months for a grade.
Fosc is looking for ways to get those students back to school as soon as possible, she said.
Thomas, however said that he did not have enough information to make decisions on the teachers’ request for additional help.
He said that teachers should be able to take whatever steps they choose to help the district reach its goals of increasing enrollment and quality.
“We have to make sure that we have the resources to make this happen, and we have to have the commitment to make it happen,” he said.
“The parents want the schools to be successful, the teachers want to be productive, and this program helps us reach those goals.”
Thomas said the students will have a “very good Christmas” and that the school will be happy with the results.
The students will also have some time to reflect on what they accomplished and what the district can do to make the program even better, he said, adding that the students have been treated well.
“I’m not looking at it as a job, I’m not asking them to go out and take a lot of work, I want them to be engaged and productive,” he added.
“We are going to make them happy and we are going do everything we can to make that happen.”