2010-04-23 / Front Page

City Slashes KidsmART Program

By Howard Schwach
The kidsmART afterschool program, which serves more than 500 Rockaway kids at Fort Tilden and at PS 104 in Bayswater has been told informally that its city funding will end on June 30, Rockaway Artists Alliance (RAA) officials have told The Wave.

Kids working with a counselor in the KidsmART program earlier this year. Kids working with a counselor in the KidsmART program earlier this year. “We have been unofficially told that the $230,000 funded by the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) will end in June,” says Marina Callaghan, the Education Program Director for the RAA, the non-profit group that runs the highly-popular program. “This has happened to us before, but this time it looks like it’s for real.”

“It looks as if the budget cuts are going to hit all of the Option II programs hard,” she added. “It is a shame, because this is a great program that serves 500 kids at both ends of the peninsula and which provides meaningful employment for 39 people.”

The DYCD funding, which provides 100 percent of the money used for the afterschool program and a small percentage used for scholarships in the summer program, provides an office on Beach 116 Street, office staff, computers, phones and supplies, as well as allowing the RAA to provide the afterschool program free to participants.

“Without these funds, we might well have to shut our doors,” Callaghan said. “That will leave hundreds of children with nothing to do after school each day.”

Christine Mullally, RAA Education Director, says that the participants receive academic help and an arts education in the program.

“This is the only free afterschool program of its kind in the Rockaways,” Mullally says, pointing out that most of the other programs are either sports oriented or homework helpers.

Mullally said that the real impact of the cuts would be felt in September.

“We use some of the city money to fund scholarships for needy campers in the summer program,” she said, “but most of our summer funding comes from the parents themselves.”

She says that 15 to 20 needy kids are provided with scholarships to the summer pro- gram each year.

Callaghan said that the RAA is looking at all of its options for September.

“The RAA is looking at all of its funding to see if some of that money can be allocated to kidsmART,” she said. “We’re also looking at partnering with other organizations and at the possibility of charging parents to keep the program open.”

“Some parents have already told us that they will pay to keep us open,” she said. “The needs of the two program components – Fort Tilden and PS 104 – are so different that we really need to look at that.”

“We really need to keep this program going,” she said. “Look at the big gang arrest in Rockaway last week. We work with kids from Redfern, from the Beach 41 Street project. We keep them busy and away from drugs and gangs. They need something to do and we fill that bill.”

DYCD spokesperson Ryan Dodge told The Wave on Wednesday, “As a result of the current economic crisis, all City agencies have been asked to find cost savings. The Out-of-School Time (OST) Program will be reduced by $7.5 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.

“OST was launched in 2005 in order to provide comprehensive services that meet the needs of working parents. DYCD examined our entire OST portfolio and made the difficult decision to eliminate OST Option II programs. These programs are less intensive and operate for shorter periods of time. The programs we preserved meet five days a week, making them more valuable to working parents who rely on OST for high-quality afterschool programming.

We were able to postpone the elimination for a year using federal stimulus funds, which will be exhausted shortly. The kidSMART program operated by the Rockaway Artists Alliance is an Option II program.”

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