Parents and school board members in the South San Francisco Unified School District want to use no longer earmarked state funding to fill a hole they see in the district — after-school programs for middle schoolers.
The new Local Control Funding Formula comes with a Local Control Accountability Plan that requires districts to outline how they plan on spending their funds and some would like to see some of that money go toward establishing an after-care program in all of the city’s middle schools. Some parents say they are stressed out over how they are going to pick up their kids from school and get them home safely when there is no after-care program offered in any of the district’s middle schools. Some currently use the after-care programs offered by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for their elementary school students, but there is no such program for middle schoolers.
Parent Amy Meintz has a third-grader and kindergartner at Ponderosa Elementary School. Her daughters have been with the Parks and Recreation program since preschool and she says the continuity is priceless. She would like to see either middle school after-school care from the Parks and Recreation Department or the district.
“Both my husband and I are working parents,” she said. “In middle school, there’s a tremendous void. It’s really concerning — there’s nowhere for the kids to go. So many kids are hanging out with nothing to do and getting into trouble and whatnot. It’s a very complicated age — the tweenage years.”
The idea originated from a school district meeting in September 2013. There is also a questionnaire going out to elementary school parents districtwide to garner interest in after-school middle school programs. Issues arise since kids will get home around 3 p.m., while some parents don’t get home until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., Trustee Philip Weise said.
“I feel that in middle school kids are young and vulnerable and could fall prey to gang recruiters or general mischief,” he said. “I would like to work toward a middle program in all ages and would like to see it by next school year.”
How to spend the money is a divisive issue among parents, said parent Letty Marroquin. She supports the after-school middle school care since community members have seen various things happening in their neighborhoods that stem from kids “hanging out” with nowhere to go after school.
“There has also been a flurry of emails going around, along with phone calls to everyone’s home, all proposing support of their issues versus the one about middle school after care,” Marroquin wrote in an email. “We need affordable outlets for kids to feel good in. Not everyone is a “sports” kid and unless the parents have the time and/or money and not to mention family/friends support to get them to programs to help them be involved in an outside interest. … Not every parent can take their child to Kumon or paid tutoring for educational support.”
Maria Vasquez, one of the organizers of the parents advocating for the after-school middle school programming said it’s a great opportunity to enhance students’ school experience by engaging them with music, art and other fun options.
“There’s just a lot of competing priorities, so we’ll see how it goes,” she said. “Honestly, it’s something that parents have asked for every year. ... It could prepare them for high school and more.”
Meanwhile, parent of three Reem Nasrah also supports middle school after-school care, along with a retreat for troubled, expelled and suspended students. She also wants to see physical education, art and music programs restored.
“It’s very beneficial to children to have these programs in the schools,” she said. “Hopefully they (the district) take the comments and suggestions to heart. I have two children in middle school right now, so I see what’s happening. Kids are going home to an empty house and finding trouble along the way.”
Another parent, Mike Hornsby, who has a second-grader and a kindergartner in the district, would like to see some affordable options for safe after care for middle school kids.
“There’s lots of good uses for the money,” he said. “There seems to be a deficiency in teacher salaries.”
Despite the opportunities for new programming because of lack of earmarked funds, the district could be set back $5 million to $8 million this year with the new formula, Weise said.
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