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Funds run out for after-school programs

BY JESS WISLOSKI

6-12-07 Exclusive (Followed 6-18 by NY Times story)

FIVE BRONX SCHOOLS are shutting the doors to their after-school programs because federal funds dried up.

"The effect is going to be dramatic," said David Neering, principal at Middle School 206 in Morris Heights.

His is one of 18 Bronx schools on the list to lose state-distributed funds designated for after-school programming that kept hundreds of elementary and middle-school children in the borough's poorest neighborhoods from being latchkey kids.

Four other schools announced the certain demise of their programs last week. Citywide, the loss of funds will cripple 118 schools, affecting 20,000 children. Some 62 schools across the city face losing their programs.

"We serve them dinner, there's tutoring, we run an athletic program, we have an arts program, there's a chess club," and video and robotics courses at a nearby college, said Neering. "Studies show . . . if middle-school age kids are not engaged in something positive, they're engaged in at-risk behaviors.

"It's going to be traumatic for the community, and for the school."

This year, 1,100 after-school programs run by community-based groups were organized and publicly funded through the After-School Corporation (TASC), a nonprofit.

"There's a whole second school system in New York City, and it starts after three," said TASC spokeswoman Susan Brenna.

The June conclusion of the first round, or "cohort" of 21st Century Community Learning Center funds is just the tip of the iceberg, she said.

The federal grant, designed to provide "academic enrichment opportunities outside of the regular school hours" for children in high-poverty and low-performing schools, has created programs in schools since 2003.

"These programs are not just critical to family, but they're a really important complement to academics in the schools," Brenna said.

Kids at MS 118 on E. 179th St. should know. College Town, the after-hours program there, is in its fourth year. Last week, a dance team of teenage girls worked out steps on a shabby stage, while young artists in a classroom explored the medium of finger paint.

"It's wrong, nobody should l cut the program," lamented Dijon Dowd, 13, over the thunder of an upstairs basketball court.

"Since I started this program, I stopped failing my classes," he said. "There isn't anybody who doesn't benefit. Everybody has a friend here. It's like your second family."


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