I'd already turned in my column last week when I got the news from ACAP that the after school program is returning to the old low fee schedule that made it so affordable in years past. What a great opportunity this is for the community, and how fortunate we are to benefit from the generous donation that made it possible.
From $50 a week per child, the fee has now dropped to $50 a month. I hope that all the students who missed the program will now be able to come back, and that we'll also see some new faces along with the old familiar ones. There's just enough time for some good sledding before we turn to springtime activities like obstacle courses and, of course, tag in the playground.
Parents can pick up applications at the school cafeteria during the program's regular hours, 3-6 p.m., or have them sent in the mail by calling ACAP at 873-3207.
This is good news, but after school programs still face some steep proposed budget cuts. Maybe you'd consider taking a moment to advocate for after school programs with our state and federal representatives. This means making a phone call or writing a letter, and a little help from ACAP can make it a quick and easy process. Call ACAP or email Marge Z., ACAP's child program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org for information, including sample letters you can use. Or drop me a line.
While we're at it, let's not forget about our two outstanding libraries, which could also use a little advocacy. The proposed state budget would cut $18 million dollars from support for libraries - nearly 1/5 of the total, which would bring library funding to its lowest in 15 years. All that at a time when library use is skyrocketing. Where else can you go to look for a job online if you're out of work and can't afford internet access at home? In three-quarters of communities - ours included - libraries offer the only free public internet access.
Our libraries can give you addresses to write to in Albany and provide you with sample letters to use. Call or stop by the Westport Library Association (962-8219) or the Wadhams Free Library (962-8717) to find out more. Or, once again, drop me a line. I'm happy to help get you started. Yes, times are tough. But right now after school programs and libraries are two essential services that count more than ever.