The end of federal funding for Polk County Schools’ afterschool initiative will mean changes to the program this fall.
For the last 12 years, Polk County Schools has been the recipient of a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant that has enabled the district to provide high quality afterschool and summer programming to students free of charge. The grants were awarded in four-year cycles and provided funding 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. 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.
Polk County Schools recently learned that it did not receive funding for the upcoming four-year cycle due to the large reductions and cuts to the federal education budget, especially to afterschool programs. The loss of this funding will result in Polk County Schools having to initiate a pay-for-service model to continue afterschool programming.
The district is already working with Polk County Government officials, Polk County Parks and Recreation and other local community support agencies to develop an affordable program to serve the needs of students and families. As soon as fees, program components and dates of service are determined, Polk County Schools will get that information out to families.
“Given that the 21st Century program served almost 300 students in all four of Polk’s elementary schools and Polk County Middle, afterschool is a significant need in our school communities,” said Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene. “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.
“Providing quality afterschool is not cheap. It requires well trained workers, low student-to-staff ratios and money for materials and supplies. 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.”