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Local kids left adrift after state slashes aid to afterschool programs

A reduction of state aid will lead to the shuttering of afterschool programs for 100 kids in Schroon, Westport and Moriah next month.

A reduction of state aid will lead to the shuttering of afterschool programs for 100 kids in Schroon, Westport and Moriah next month.

MORIAH — The final bell has rang for an afterschool program that parents, school officials, nonprofits and civic leaders say has been vital to sustaining healthy communities for the past 15 years.

Adirondack Community Action Programs (ACAP) runs three programs in Moriah, Schroon and Westport. They will not reopen next month because the state determined they did not score high enough to gain access to the funding that would cover their operating costs.

“There is a crisis in child care,” said ACAP CEO Alan Jones at a roundtable discussion with county officials and other stakeholders to discuss a path forward last week. “This is a devastating loss.”

LAST PERIOD

Moriah serves 60 kids, Schroon and Westport, 30 each.

Many come from economically challenged families.

These taxing circumstances mean that parents depend on the program to care for their kids during the brief window when classes are dismissed and parents get home from work, said Marge Zmijewski, the program’s director.

Parents say the centers provide a safe place for their children. They are open until 6 p.m, often later during the winters when inclement weather results in more treacherous commutes, many over long distances.

Aside from the practical component, there are other benefits, said ACAP staffers.

“We make sure we’re meeting needs of the children academically,” said Zmijewski. “Every activity has an education component to it.”

Children with special needs receive much-needed socialization, while kids with high absenteeism are now coming to school because they enjoy the program, which in part, assists in correcting behavioral issues.

Zmijewski said the organization also places a strong emphasis on nutrition. If it wasn’t for the program, she said, some kids would go to bed hungry, nearly a fifth of whose participants receive SNAP benefits designed to augment food budgets for working class families.

Fifty-eight percent of the kids engaged in the now-defunct Moriah program were eligible for free and reduced lunch; Schroon Lake, 52 percent, and Westport, 46 percent.

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