Polk After School program to restart in October

Published 10:19 pm Sunday, August 25, 2013

An announcement that Polk County School’s After School program won’t start until October has many parents scrambling to find after school care for their children this week.

“I was talking to some [parents] today,” Polk Schools Superintendent Bill Miller said on Friday, “they don’t know what to do on Monday. We know that puts parents in a bad spot.”

Polk County has provided an After School program for the last eight years. Last year, about 275-300 kids from the system’s four elementary schools and one middle school attended the program.

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The hold up this year came from the system waiting to see whether or not it would receive grant funding.

“Until a week ago, we didn’t even know if we were going to have an after school program,” Miller said. “We said last spring that we weren’t sure if we’d even have a program this year.”

Miller assumes the system will receive the total $400,000 it requested, but said even that amount may not be enough to run the program all year. This amount includes costs for site administration, supplies, salaries, tutoring, snacks and other costs of running the program.

“We’re a community member and our citizens support our schools immensely; we have a responsibility back to them to help our parents out,” Miller said.

Polk County schools let out about 3 p.m. The After School program runs from then until the parent can pick the child up or until 6 p.m.

But Miller said it’s not just a daycare service.

“We believe this program is one component in our goal for high student achievement,” Miller said. “These children after school have a secure place to be, a disciplined place to be, a place to get a snack and help with homework. If you total up all the hours these kids spend in, we’re talking about almost another school year. That means improving their chances of reading on grade level, writing on grade level, doing math on grade level.”

Miller said the system should know by mid-September when the program will start.

“Our grant has been approved. Our goal is we’ll start up sometime in October … hopefully the latest possible date will be toward the middle of October,” Miller said.

Once the grant is finalized Miller and After School Director Emily Bartlett will set the program back up and hire staff.

But until October, those parents will be left to find somewhere for their kids to go in the afternoons.

“We’re a small place, we aren’t a place that has Boys and Girls Clubs, big churches with after school programs or tons of daycares,” Miller said.

Another county-run program is available for parents.

Caitlin Capozzi is the director of the Polk County Recreation After School program, which takes place at Stearn’s Gym.

“I think right now we have about 20 kids registered, but we have had a lot of phone calls and registration forms go out,” Capozzi said.

They also offer a School’s Out program from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. The first day that is offered is Oct. 11. It is not offered on Labor Day because county employees are off work as well.

Polk Rec’s After School program is also open over the Christmas holidays and spring break. The program offers financial breaks for families with multiple students, but the fee is for a week regardless of how many days your child attends.

The after school/school’s out program can accept up to about 40 kids.

Capozzi said if parents are considering the program as an option they will need to know bus numbers that will transport their children from school to Stearn’s Gym.

Polk Central students would ride bus 123, students at Tryon Elementary would ride bus 121 and Polk Middle School students would ride bus 113 to Stearn’s.

Homework time during the recreation program runs from 3:30-4:30 p.m., a snack and a drink is provided to kids and from 4:30 until 6 p.m., when the program closes, the kids will play games and break up individually for free time.

Registration forms for the Polk Recreation After School program are available at polknc.org, by clicking on the recreation tab, or by calling 828-894-8199.