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After school programs suffer budget cuts

ELIZABETHTOWN Two After school programs in Essex County have taken huge hits with New York State cutting its funding of several 21st Century programs. Adirondack Community Action Programs (ACAP) learned in July that the After school programs they administer in Westport and Schroon Lake would receive drastic funding cuts, leaving the two programs with barely enough to remain in operation. Without the state funding, parents must be charged more to make up the difference. Where before the cost was about $35 per month, it will now cost parents $50 per week for each of their children to participate in the program, said Marge Zmijewski, Child Care Manager for ACAP. Though subsidies are available for low-income families through the countys Department of Social Services, the increased cost is prohibitive for many. The result is much lower participation, said Zmijewski. The Westport program served 65 students last year in grades K-6. So far this year, only nine are enrolled. Zmijewski said that at least 10 are needed to justify running the program. Though the goal all along has been to make the program self-sufficient, said ACAP Director Alan Jones, the community lacks the resources to properly support the programs. It really is an amazing resource for the community, said Jones, especially with the economic situation right now, because more often than not, middle class families, if they havent had two people working, theyre going to have to. Having your children in some type of structured care in the afternoon is invaluable to that. Zmijewski noted that teacher surveys indicated an improvement in both behavior and academic performance among students who had participated in the program. Still, without the state funding, the program will be scaled down significantly. Several staff for the programs were either laid off or had their hours cut back in order to reduce expenses. Its going to take the community as a whole to keep these programs up and running, said Zmijewski.

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