GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - After-school programs that school leaders say have been very successful -- even models for the rest of the state -- may not be there when students come back in the fall.
School leaders in Wyoming and Grand Rapids public schools recently learned that they will not be getting state grants to fund part of their after-school programs, which they have been offering for years.
Each year, the Michigan Department of Education distributes its 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants. The money comes from the federal government and is meant to support programs that serve at-risk children in low-perfoming school districts.
Grand Rapids and Wyoming public schools each had won five-year grants for after-school programs, but those grants expired this year. The districts are now learning they will not be awarded grants covering the next five years.
In Wyoming, the program at risk is Team 21 at Newhall Middle School and Jackson Park Intermediate School. The program has won a number of awards for improving student achievement, including a Connecting with Community award a few years ago.
The middle school programs serve 340 students and have a 60-person wait list.
"There is no back-up plan," Wyoming Superintendent Dr. Thomas Reeder told 24 Hour News 8.
He said the program is too expensive for the district to cover in its own.
In Grand Rapids, nine of the district's 35 LOOP or LOFT sites won't be funded. Like in Wyoming program, the tutoring program has been a model for other districts.
The grants were supposed to fund programs at Congress Elementary, MLK Jr Leadership Academy, Palmer Elementary, Shawnee Park Academy, Sherwood Park Global Studies Academy, Burton Middle School, Gerald R. Ford Middle School, Riverside Middle School and Westwood Middle School. The programs at those 9 schools serve a little more than 600 students in all.
It costs the district $130,000 to run the after-school program at each location during the school year.
"At this point, everything points to us having to shut down programs this fall for these nine sites," said GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt.
The summer session is underway, but Thursday, GRPS learned grant money to fund the programs won't be coming from the state.
"We now have a program that goes through July 26 that is not funded, so as a district we have to look creatively at how we can move some dollars around to keep these programs going," said Helmholdt. "We don't want to be the ones to go to the parents, say, 'Hey, sorry, we opened for a week but because of state and federal issues, we need to close things down for the rest of the summer.' We're not going to do that."
Grand Rapids is going to find the funds to keep the doors open this summer and is pushing to get more money to help in the fall.
It is important to note there will still be some after-school programs in Wyoming an Grand Rapids in the fall of 2012, but some may look different because of the funding change.
Martin Akley, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, told 24 Hour News 8 both districts' programs have been very successful, but the amount of grant money available is smaller this year.
Out of 70 applicants, only 10 were awarded grants. None of those were in West Michigan.
Akley said the federal government requires the money go to the schools with the biggest need.
Both GRPS and Wyoming public schools are also concerned about next year, when grants that fund other locations within their districts expire.
"The scary thing, I said this morning to someone at the city, was not only this grant, but next year five more sites come up, then two more sites. So within a three-year period, we could go from having a huge program supporting all our youth to having no programs for our youth," said Reeder.
Rebecca Rynbrandt with the City of Wyoming said the city is working to get community and business support to raise the $270,000 needed to keep the middle school program running this fall. The district needs to have the money by July 20 to make the program work. It is asking anyone who would like to help to call the Wyoming Parks and Recreation department at 616.530.3164 and make a pledge.
GRPS plans to lobby Lansing and Washington for more money, and is asking residents to call their lawmakers. The district will also be looking at its budget to find a way to keep some of these affected sites open in the fall.
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