After-school programs to close in low-performing districts

By Tom Momberg

Queens parents, children and teachers joined elected officials last weeks on the steps of Queens Borough Hall to respond to a $5.9 million cut in funding that will result in the closing of four after-school programs in the borough.

Contracts for 17 city after-school programs will end June 30, which will affect 435 children in Queens, according to the Campaign for Children, a child education advocacy coalition.

“After-school programs are vital to families across Queens,” Council member Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said at the rally. “They keep children safe and engaged after school while allowing parents to work.”

An additional 2,300 elementary after-school slots would be eliminated citywide if city funding is not restored. Most of the sites that would close if funding is not secured are in low-performing school districts, according to data gathered by the advocacy group Citizens’ Committee for Children.

Several families in the neighborhoods that those programs serve were at the rally to express their frustration, because the city had made no guarantee that alternative after-school options would be made available.

“After-school has impacted my son in ways that his regular day school cannot. He’s able to finally receive many extracurricular activities that help him to grow as an individual,” said Emily Hafford, a parent of a third grader at the Queens Community House program at PS 117 in Briarwood.

Hafford, who is also a city pre-K teacher, said her son has made friends, taken dance lessons and been exposed to science, technology, engineering and math beyond what he gets in his regular classes.

“I know my son is truly happy because he never wants to miss a day of after-school – and that makes me a happy mom,” Hafford said.

It’s not just after-school programs that are at risk from the $7.7 million in city DOE cuts. Early childhood education programs like the Sheltering Arms Malcolm X Day Care Center in Corona might also close, because the city did not commit to renewing the lease or finding alternative facilities.

Campaign for Children, a coalition of about 150 advocacy organizations, recently launched an online advocacy campaign to urge elected officials to do something about the cuts. Visit www.campaignforchildrennyc.com to learn how to contribute.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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