Some McDuffie parents are having trouble coughing up the money for after-school programs after the schools started charging a fee. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 7, 2011)
News 12 First at Five / Friday, Oct. 7, 2011
MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. -- The McDuffie County School District is now charging parents for its after-school program.
It's a story News 12 first brought you back in June when the district chose not to apply for a federal grant.
A check back with the district shows the missing money has kids missing out.
Without that grant, parents now have to pay a $20 fee, but enrollment numbers show it's $20 that has some parents looking for other options.
"$20 doesn't sound like a whole lot, but when you look at somebody who has a set income every month," said McDuffie mother of three Crystal Wade.
Wade's children attended the MEEPS after-school program until this year.
Wade told News 12 how she told her daughter.
"I just sat her down and said you know this year you're not going to be able to go to the after-school program because of budget cuts and I explained to her what budget cuts were and she didn't like it, of course," she said.
It was a decision her daughter wasn't happy about, but neither were her parents.
"A lot of parents were disappointed," said mother of three Kequanta Johnson.
That's because the program has been free until this year -- when the district didn't apply for a 21st Century grant.
Back in June, Superintendent Jim LeBrun tried to explain to us why.
"We can no longer put our local dollars to match a depleted grant that is no longer doing what they said they would on the front end," he said.
So months into the year, News 12 wanted to know the numbers. They tell us last year, 500 students were enrolled. This year, the number has dropped to 238.
"When you have an income as small as mine, $20 a week was impossible," said mother of four Lorrie McCauley. "It's either pay my bills and keep in enough back for gas or walk."
These three mothers are part of the more than 200 who opted out of after-school programs this year.
"You see more kids out on the street," McCauley said.
It's not just supervision, though.
"Her grades went down a lot since she's not in the after-school program," Wade said.
Superintendent LeBrun said they expected enrollment to be down, but they would be happy if it stays where they are now -- at half. LeBrun says they are breaking even right now.
He also suggests parents should talk to each principal if they are having problems. They are hoping to get donations in the future to offset the costs.