Cutbacks will put SAFE BASE on summer hiatus

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April 24, 2015 - 12:00 AM

For the last 15 years Angela Henry has helped parent what she jokingly calls her additional child.
The director of USD 257’s after-school program SAFE BASE said due to a 50-percent cut in its budget, SAFE BASE will not host a summer program this year.
As the program is about to turn a sweet 16, Henry is looking for ways to keep it going.
Henry was notified last year of a looming reduction in the 21st Century Community Center grant, which funds SAFE BASE.
Cutting the grant in half forced organizers to cut 12 days off the schedule in order to stay afloat.
“We had to cut the number of classes we offer, how many teachers we have, counseling classes for families at night and our blue plate dinner nights,” Henry said.
SAFE BASE was born in 2000 with the help of grant money. At the time a three-year program was anticipated, but Henry continued to find grants and kept it rolling along.
SAFE BASE has served 349 elementary students this school year.
Henry anticipated spending $318,000 for the program this year, courtesy of a pair of federal grants, but the number was later pared to $160,000, prompting the cutbacks.
“I applied for a $75,000 grant for the summer of 2016,” Henry said. “We’re hoping to hear if we get it by the end of April.”
SAFE BASE isn’t the only-after school program suffering. Henry recently attended a summit at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and several after-school program leaders met for a brainstorming session.
They also discussed looming changes with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is being, which could change how the 21st Century Community Center grant is handled, and prevent schools from spending money on after-school programs.
“We depend on those outside funds,” Henry said. “Both the students and the staff were surprised and bummed for a lack of a better word.”
Henry said students relied on the summer program for breakfast and lunch, although those students can still eat summer meals through USD 257’s summer food program expansion.

THIS ISN’T the first time the program has been forced to take a summer hiatus. There were no grant funds for summer fun in SAFE BASE’s first year of existence. A couple other times, summer funds were held back to help fund activities the following school year.
This summer’s cutback carries a harder hit because students had been able to travel  in recent years. In 2013 Henry won a $100,000 grant that allowed students to travel to Colorado.
“Applying for it was like hitting the lottery, and if we could, we would take a kids on a trip every summer,” she said. “I see it (SAFE BASE) as an opportunity to expose them to things and broaden their horizons.”
Several of the students had never been out of state prior to then. Henry noted many who students who had behavioral issues previously were well-behaved, not only during the summer, but when school resumed that fall.
SAFE BASE has two weeks left for this year. To end the year the group will show the Colorado trip video at 7 p.m. May 21 at the Iola High School lecture hall.
The community is invited. Punch and cookies will be served.

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