Do you know what your child is doing when the school bell rings at the end of the day? More than 14 million students across the United States leave school every afternoon and have nowhere to go, since they do not have access to affordable, after-school opportunities.
According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (NYVPRC), nine out of 10 Americans think all youth should have access to after-school programs, but two-thirds of parents say they have trouble finding programs locally. The bad news is that the situation may be getting worse.
Three local school districts with free after-school programs did not receive funding for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.
Minford, South Webster and Green Local School Districts will not be receiving the 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) Grant, which makes these vital programs possible.
The grant comes from the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Federal Programs.The CCLC program was designed to provide opportunities for children who come from economically disadvantaged families and attend low-performing schools to receive academic support. This federally funded grant program supports high-quality, extra-curricular learning opportunities and related activities for students who attend eligible schools.
The after-school programs provided at Minford, South Webster and Green included tutoring, intervention activities, healthy after school snacks, physical activities geared toward promoting a healthy lifestyle, field trips and transportation, all made possible by the grant.
“We write the grants for these schools and it just seems like each year fewer and fewer are awarded,” said Charlotte Moore. Moore is the director of the CCLC Program at Shawnee State University and helps to guide the schools through the grant process.
Once a school district comes to the end of their grant cycle, they have to apply as a new applicant. With cuts to federal funding, prior financial obligations to districts still involved in the cycle and more new applicants, Minford, South Webster and Green were not able to receive funding.
“Out of 200 new grant applicants, only 26 received funding. In the 2015-2016 school year, Scioto County received six 21st Century grants, the year before that, we had eight. They used to be ensured for five years, and now they’re only ensured for three. All we can do is put our heads together, work harder and try again next year,” said Moore.
At Minford, the Math and Reading Collaborative Support program (MARCS) has been offered to students from grades kindergarten through fifth for the past ten years.
This is the first year that the district has not received funding for the program.
“I think the students are going to be devastated,” said teacher Kim Jenkins. Jenkins has been a teacher at Minford Middle School for 32 years, and has been involved with the MARCS program since its beginning in 2006. “There are some students who are so excited for the program. It really means the world to them, they always come running in and they’re so eager to read to you and show you what they’ve learned. For some, this is the only time they have with someone to look over their homework.
“It’s not only beneficial to the kids, but the parents and teachers too. The program ends at 6 p.m., so it alleviates some stress from the working parents. They don’t have to worry about their kids being home alone, it’s especially great for those who can’t afford to pay for a sitter or a daycare. And us teachers, we suffer too. Not only do we lose the extra pay that some of us require to live, but we lose the students. We’re missing out on making connections with the students who need help. When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you really get to know the kids who return to the program year after year, and you know how disappointed they’re going to be.”
A report by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S Department of Justice shows that students in after-school programs have fewer behavioral problems and more self-confidence, and can handle conflicts better than students who are not involved with these programs. In addition, according to the Harvard Family Research Project, after-school programs help students from low-income families overcome the inequities they face in the school system.
“It’s a sad loss for the district,” said Minford’s Superintendent Jeremy Litteral. “Especially for those parents who depend on it as a form of childcare. As of right now, we’re trying to create some plan for going forward.”
For South Webster, this is the second year that they’ve been denied grant funding for their Academic Enrichment after-school program. The Academic Enrichment program encompasses first through sixth grade students.
“It really is sad for the kids,” said South Webster’s Elementary School Principal, Sandy Smith. “We had two five-year grants back-to-back and this is our second year without. These programs are a huge help. The students get help with homework and tutoring, we feed them a healthy snack, their parents know that they’re safe and they get to do some extra things that they may not normally get to do. It gives them more time on task, and they get help studying for tests and doing science projects and the like.”
South Webster Elementary houses around 525 students and with over 160 students participating in the Academic Enrichment, eliminating the program was not an option.
“The Academic Enrichment program used to be four nights a week. We’ve found a way to make it work but we’ve had to cut back to two nights a week,” Smith explained. “Our board has approved it and supported us so we can help the students. We have to keep the cost as low as we can, but it still helps.”
And as for Green Local School District, they too did not receive the funding needed to continue their after school program.
As for now, the districts are working to come up with a solution to continue these programs.
“We just found out about this Wednesday, so we haven’t had much time to come up with a solution right yet,” said Litteral. “We’re looking into ways to keep our program going, much like Webster has. The money that we had for MARCS was substantial. I don’t know that we’re going to be able to fund anything close to that, we may look at some simpler options. As of right now, nothing is set in stone.”
If you have any concerns or questions regarding your districts after-school programs, or if your student is affected by the program cuts, please contact your district’s administrative office for more information.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-353-3101 ext. 1932, Facebook, “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara