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After school enrichment program faces budget shortfall

Schools Out! Program at Ossipee Central School serves 200 students a year

October 01, 2009
OSSIPEE — The Schools Out! Program at Ossipee Central School prepares for some fiscal belt-tightening as it faces a $40,000-plus shortfall in private and public sector grant funding this year.

Launched about five years ago with a $125,000 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, the popular after-school program also receives grant and in-kind support from the N.H. Department of Education, Carroll County, the NH Division for Children, Youth and Families; Incentive Grand Funds; the town of Ossipee, J.C. Penney, the Governor Wentworth School District, the Ossipee Central School, 4-H After School Grant, the NH Charitable Foundation and several other partners.

This year, according to Program Director Jennifer Berkowitz, funding from both private and public sectors is down.

"We knew they were going to scale back we knew in the fourth year we'd have $41,000 from the 21st Century grant, so we planned for sustainability and worked with our advisory board and wrote for additional grants to bridge that gap. We've been successful with those grants. For the past three or four years have had eight or nine funding sources. Last year J.C. Penney funded us with $46,000 and it provided 103 scholarships for children and J.C. Penney gift cards for back to school shopping. We've had county funds, and those were scaled back as well.

"Because of the economy, the J.C. Penney grant, which we were counting on for another $46,000, scaled back. They only set aside $250,000 for after school grants for the entire United States. We budget for $46,000, but we only received $4,644," said Berkowitz. "With the county grant, we budgeted $13,000 but only received $8,264. So we started out this year a little over $46,000 of what our proposed budget was."

Upbeat in the face of adversity, Berkowitz outlines some plans to deal with the shortfall include scaling back programming and seeking out other federal funding sources.

The Governor Wentworth Regional School District has included the Schools Out! Program in two separate federal Title 1 grant proposals, for which the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has set aside additional funds. But Berkowitz may not know the outcome of the grants until October and November.

"We have our fingers crossed and we'll have an advisory committee meeting in a few weeks."

Program background

For those who may not have children at the Ossipee Central School, the Schools Out! Program's mission is to "provide a safe, caring and enriching after school environment, which fosters the development of academic and social skills for the students of Ossipee through family, school and community partnerships." That partnership includes an Advisory Committee made up of key community members such as parents, teachers, program staff, Ossipee Recreation Department leaders, Police Chief Donnie Grow, and representatives from the Ossipee Concerned Citizens, UNH Cooperative Extension and Board of Selectmen.

The program operates with one full time employee (Berkowitz) and two part timers, site director George Anderson, and a part time secretary.

An average 70 percent of OCS students participate in program activities. After school programming kicks off with a healthy snack time and then "homework clubs" with students grouped by class. Students can then participate in a number of educational and fun enrichment programs and the variety is astounding. There are clubs for physical game playing, cooking, photography, Jeopardy, rock climbing, guitar, sign language, painting and the arts, Wii, jewelry making, and clubs were members visit the Mountain View Nursing Home and the Ossipee Police Department. A late bus accommodates youngsters living as far north as West Ossipee and as far south as the fish hatchery on Route 16, with stops in Ossipee Corner.

Scholarships are given but the program also charges sliding scale fees, which range from $9 per quarter for clubs and lunch, to full pay of $36 per quarter for clubs and lunch. The more children parents sign up for a program, the less the family pays.

Berkowitz said its key to keep the Ossipee children engaged in school as they move through the grades and ultimately enter Kingswood Regional High School, where 60 percent of the dropouts come from Ossipee. "We need to keep the students engages in school, making friends, and keep them in a positive place. In addition, in this area where there is no public transportation, our late buses are key keeping the kids engaged, she said.

"We want to reinforce what's happy about the child's school day," said Berkowitz.

Tilton School
Martin Lord Osman
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