October 10, 2018

Many Parents Can't Afford Fees for CCSD After-School Programs

City Dope

Photo Credit: Clarke County School District

Like most local schools with a relatively high number of well-off parents, Barrow Elementary also has a high enrollment in after-school programs.

There is wide disparity in the number of elementary children participating in after-school programs (ASP) in Clarke County public schools. Whitehead Road, for example, has 153 kids participating, while J.J. Harris has only 25. The system average is 973.

There is also a difference in what activities and programs those schools offer in the afternoons. At every school, there is homework help and some sort of enrichment activity. Enrichment at one school may include joining a chess club, learning hip-hop dancing and or being in a Girl Scout troop, while at other schools it means opening the playground and showing movies.

The Board of Education learned about participation in after-school programs and about 21st Century Community Learning Centers at its work session last week from Erin Buckley, director of academic support and special projects and Title I. According to Buckley, parent fees fund every ASP program. At most schools, fees are are $10 per child for enrollment, then $6 per child per day and $4 for a second or third child. Schools with a preponderance of poor children have fewer kids in ASP.

Superintendent Demond Means wants to change that situation, saying that there are virtually no programs in schools with the highest needs, perhaps because their parents can’t afford the fees.

Gaines School Road Elementary sends its 35 children to ASP at Barnett Shoals. J.J. Harris has only 25 participants, Stroud has 32 and Fowler Drive has 38 children. When a school has fewer than 50 children involved, Buckley said, the ASP staff is made up largely of volunteers, often college students. Whitehead, Timothy, Barnett Shoals and Barrow all have more than 100 children in ASP, which means staff people are paid for their services.

“We need a systemic approach to providing ASP,” Means said. He also wants more schools to be involved with Playworks, which has provided Americorps volunteers as coaches in some Clarke County elementary schools.

Buckley said it would be good for each school to survey parents to learn what kinds of programs they want ASP to offer. Board member Greg Davis wondered how rigorous the homework program is and how to measure homework help.

This is the last year of a $350,000 federal grant that funds 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) at the Boys and Girls Clubs for 250 elementary school students. The district’s annual costs for this program are $83,862 for a budget clerk and part of a professional staff member’s salary, $8,126 for a bus and $200 in office supplies.

All four middle schools offer the 21st CCLC program, which reaches 180 students and operates on another $350,000 grant. The high school program has 165 students involved and a grant of $257,889. The local contribution is $100,000.

The participants from both middle and high schools are expected to improve their math and reading scores on standardized tests, as well as to demonstrate positive behavioral changes and attitudes. So far, the anticipated improvement in math hasn’t yet happened. All three grants are ending, and the school district intends to reapply for them.