BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — There is a call for the Buffalo Public School District to use federal money to expand after-school programs for children who were affected by the pandemic.
“Our students in the City of Buffalo are in dire need of social-emotional support. They need academic enrichment,” explained JoAnna Rozier-Johnson.
These programs can help students in the classroom and offer social and emotional and academic support.
Rozier-Johnson is co-chair of the Buffalo Partners Committee for After-School Network of Western New York.
“Strengthening the weaknesses they have are the things that they need to move forward properly,” said Rozier-Johnson.
Like many districts, the pandemic and remote learning hit the Buffalo School District hard, with many students now facing learning deficits.
Rozier-Johnson says the organization works to bring after-school programs into schools and community centers across Western New York and in Buffalo.
“The beauty of having after-school providers like us, that come into the programs, is that we actually get to work on the things that the teacher can't work on during the school day,” Rozier-Johnson remarked. “You have a student who's in third grade, but they were still struggling and needed some things from first and second grade — the teacher has to do third-grade stuff and they have a really hard job.”
As the Buffalo Board of Education prepares to adopt a budget this month, the After-School Network of Western New York is petitioning to have the district use American Rescue funds to expand after school programs for more students.
Buffalo School Board member Larry Scott tells me during Wednesday's board work session he learned after-school programming will be ”fully funded” in the budget.
“Would that federal money be there to use for some of that?" Buckley asked.
“Absolutely, the federal money is something that's available for funding after-school programs,” responded Scott.
But Scott says at this time, he doesn't know the actual budget numbers.
The district received a total of $289-million in federal funding and planned to spend 60-percent of it on academics.
Scott says the proposed school budget calls for after-school programs in every city school, just as they did pre-COVID, but the problem isn't funding, it's a bus driver shortage.
“And that is right now what's budgeted for next school year. It's just the transportation challenges remain an issue. It’s not something that's resolved,” remarked Scott. "We continue to battle with the bus driver shortage crisis."
“We also in need people to be drivers for the buses, so that transportation within the City of Buffalo, which is a hardship — that's no longer a barrier for students to get home after our after school programs end,” reflected Rozier-Johnson.
Rozier-Johnson says they are meeting next week with district members to have a conversation about after-school programs, hoping to enhance their partnership.
“The first thing that they love about after-school is that they get to do all the fun stuff that they don't get during the school day or they get to expand the things that they like,” noted Rozier-Johnson. “
“After-school programming is absolutely necessary,” replied Scott.
The school district provided some proposed budget numbers for after-school programming for the next school year, 2022-2023:
- $1,347,702 (Empire Grant)
- $2,201,200 (Transportation)
- $8,753,333 (ARP)