Queens Chronicle: Advocates call for afterschool renewal
Advocates call for afterschool renewal
Anthony O’Reilly, Queens Chronicle, 3.26.2015
With funding for more than 17 afterschool programs, including four in Queens, set to run out this summer, education advocates are calling on the city to fund them through the executive budget rather than the Department of Education.
Funding for the Comprehensive After School System of New York City is slated to end on June 30.
The program serves about 1,900 students citywide, according to Gigi Li, director of Neighborhood Family Services Coalition.
“It’s really a high-quality extension of the school day,” Li said of the program.
The program seeks to continue to educate children after the school day ends, offers mental health clinics and provides parents a place to leave their children until their workday is finished. It is free to students of the schools where it is held, but there are only a certain number of spots available.
One of the sites slated to close is PS 273 in Richmond Hill.
Manisha Singh, COMPASS program director for the school, said if the program loses funding it would affect the lives of more than 100 families.
“Although it’s very new, it’s also one of the more succesful programs,” Singh said.
The afterschool program at PS 273 started last school year and already has a four-page waiting list for children seeking to become a part of it, Singh said.
The school was listed under an expansion of COMPASS that was enacted during Mayor Bloomberg’s administration and was never meant to become permanent.
But because of its popularity, Singh and others are looking to extend its stay at the school.
Deepmalya Ghosh, associate executive director of youth development & community engagement at the Child Center of NY, said the PS 273 program “instantly became popular” when it opened.
“This was one of the best received programs that I’ve been a part of,” he said.
Melanie Aviles, whose child attends the program, said her family “depends on the service provided by COMPASS.”
“We have no one to pick up our children from school,” Aviles said. “This is the only political issue that currently affects our family directly. The politicians who step in to keep the program have our vote in November.”
Li said she and others are calling on the city and Council members to include $5.9 million in funding for COMPASS in this year’s budget.
“Having money in the executive budget brings security earlier, rather than having to wait to find out it will be funded,” she said. “Because at some point, parents will need to be notified if there’s a closure.”
Advocates will testify in front of Council committees for the funding in the coming weeks and will host rallies at borough halls on yet-to-be-determined dates.
Each program will also have its own Twitter hashtag to call attention to the issue.
PS 273 is using #SaveCOMPASS273 and Li said #Fundthe17 will be used to call attention to the overall issue.