THE CITY and the school district have struck a deal to preserve winter-season recreational programming and activities for more than 16,000 children who use school gyms, but, to cut back on costs, hours and locations of some programs will be changed.
"In addition to the strong academic programs, extracurricular activities are absolutely vital to the health and development of well-rounded young people," Mayor Nutter said Tuesday during the announcement in City Hall. "This is good news for our students, our young people and, certainly, the city taxpayers."
The school district will continue to cover the cost of Recreation Department programming in 80 of 105 schools that will be open from 6 until 7:30 p.m., and the city will pay $338,000 for 25 larger schools with multiple facilities that will open from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 5 and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays to accommodate additional programs.
William Hite Jr., district superintendent, said that changes to staff hours and hours of operation will result in $1.8 million in savings. Nutter announced a similar deal with the district in February that cost the city $189,000. School gyms host a number of programs, including basketball, soccer and indoor track for children ages 5 to 18 with requests from 109 community groups.
"The goal should absolutely be: How do we keep school buildings open all year long?" said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who added that some of the groups in her district have not been accommodated. "This will again be an issue at budget time."
The district and the city have both been in a financial crunch. After February, groups that were not registered with the city and wanted to use facilities after allotted hours were charged $57 to $72 an hour, said Fernando Gallard, district spokesman. Some community groups have complained to local leaders, including State Sen. Mike Stack, about the costs. Sanchez said that she would like to examine the fee structure to see if there's room for adjustment.
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