Organizer lining up some funds to continue after-school programs |

Organizer lining up some funds to continue after-school programs

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners agreed this week to release the remaining $63,000 in funding they allocated last year for a range of after-school programs geared toward middle school students.

The programs are designed to keep pre-teen and early teen-aged students busy during what is known as the “latch-key” period of time after school lets out and before parents arrive home from work.

The various academic, arts and intramural sports programs function as much as a safety mechanism to keep kids active and out of trouble during the impressionable middle school years, said Access Roaring Fork director Steve Kaufman.

The program has thus-far proven both popular and successful, and he’s making the rounds to municipalities and counties from Basalt to Parachute to seek additional funding.

Bolstered with support from the superintendents of the three school districts in Garfield County and representatives from Glenwood Springs, New Castle and Rifle, county commissioners had no issues with following through on their previous commitment.

Last year, the county agreed to put $95,000 toward the program, but only released a third of that amount to help get the project rolling. They asked that a one-year program update be given before the rest of the money was released.

“It seems to me to be a very stable program that could last for years,” Glenwood City Council member Matt Steckler said at the Aug. 9 commissioners meeting in support of the county’s continued funding.

The program began as a pilot project at Carbondale Middle School a few years ago with a class in media communications. It has since grown to include variety programs in Carbondale, Basalt and Glenwood Springs, with plans to expand westward into New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute schools.

“We work with different partner organizations and volunteer teachers and coaches, and now service over 500 kids in those three [Roaring Fork] communities,” Kaufman explained to Glenwood Springs City Council last week.

Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said the program has made a big difference for a lot of students.

“It is good to know they’re going someplace after we’re done with the regular school day,” she said.

Added Glenwood Middle School Principal Sandy DeCrow, “We’ve already had parents calling asking what is going to be offered this year. Last spring, we had around 200 kids involved in something after school in our building. It was amazing.”

“We now have kids doing positive things with their time who are at a crossroads in their life, where they make choices that are either healthy, or maybe not so healthy,” added GSMS teacher Grace Tenet.

When it comes to potential city of Glenwood Springs funding, though, Access Roaring Fork will likely have to get in line with other non-profit organizations as part of the city’s health and human service grant process. But Kaufman asked that the city consider creating a regular budget line item for after-school program funding.

“Safety is the main issue here,” he said. “Communities have got to start addressing the issue from that perspective.”

Instead of an annual grant, he said he needs a long-term funding commitment to make the program viable over the long haul.

Other municipalities have been able to be creative in funding the program. For instance, Carbondale is using money from its police victim/witness program to subsidize the program, partly because of a high-profile assault incident in 2008 in which a group of juveniles attacked a local teacher on the street.

“These types of programs typically struggle from one grant to another … I’m not sure where we can find the money, but I am willing to have the conversation and look at it,” Councilor Russ Arensman said.

Mayor Bruce Christensen said he supports the after school programs. However, he would have “strong reservations” about dedicating part of the city’s general fund for Access Roaring Fork or any nonprofit organization.

“It will have to be weighed together with the other requests we receive,” he said.

Kaufman also told county commissioners Monday that he has applied for a $500,000 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Education that could lead to further, much bigger implementation grants in the future.

(Post Independent reporter John Colson contributed to this report.)

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