Afterschool, summer program grant cut

Published 2:00 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

Polk’s parents must prepare to pay for care

COLUMBUS – Because of federal cuts to education, Polk County parents of elementary and middle school students should begin to prepare to pay for afterschool services beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.

After 12 years of receiving a grant for free afterschool and summer programs for all elementary schools and Polk County Middle School, Polk Schools did not receive the grant this cycle.

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Polk County Schools received the grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Center for the last 12 years, which enabled the district to provide high quality afterschool and summer programming to students free of charge, according to Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene.

Greene said the grants were awarded in four-year cycles with the money awarded for academic tutoring and homework assistance, enrichment and support for summer activities.

“This funding was vital to the provision of afterschool services during the school year, and provided a valuable service to the county’s students and families,” Greene said. “The extra academic support and enrichment has repeatedly proven to increase student achievement for all participating students, helping to keep Polk County Schools’ overall performance high. More importantly, the individual impact of these programs can mean the difference between a student being well prepared for challenges of the next academic year, or falling further behind.”

School officials recently learned that they did not receive the funding for the upcoming four-year cycle because of the large reductions and cuts to the federal education budget, particularly to afterschool programs.

Greene said the loss of the funding will result in Polk County Schools having to initiate a pay-for-service model to continue afterschool programming.

“In the coming months, district leaders will be working with Polk County Government, Polk County Recreation and many local community support agencies to develop an affordable program to serve the needs of students and families,” said Greene. “As soon as it is decided what this new model will entail, including fee schedules, program components and dates of service, Polk Schools will get that information out to families.”

The program served almost 300 students each day last year, including at Polk Central, Tryon, Saluda and Sunny View elementary schools and at the middle school.

Greene said given those numbers, afterschool programming is a significant need in Polk’s school communities.

“While county and school leaders are striving to keep costs as low as possible, it is very important that the academic and enrichment features of the program are preserved,” he said. “Polk County Schools is fortunate that Polk County Government is willing to support our students and families by offering to pool resources and provide the best services and care possible.”