Four Fayette elementary schools lose $11,000 funding for early-arrival programs

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 4, 2014 

Some parents in Fayette County Public Schools are starting to see the effects of one budget cut the board recently approved.

Northern Elementary parent Megan Jones Honeycutt said she received a memo May 23 from school officials saying that as of August parents at Northern could no longer drop off their children at 7:30 a.m. for the school's early arrival program.

Honeycutt said that next school year, students cannot arrive before 7:55 a.m., "which is going to cause work issues for many, including myself."

Honeycutt said she had reached out to the school district to ask what her options were because she has to be at work at 8 a.m. on school days. The loss of the program could mean that she will be five minutes late. Her children live too close to school to ride the bus, and her husband's work schedule is such that he's not available in the mornings.

The Fayette County school board recently passed a $428.4 million tentative budget, that included $17. 5 million in cuts. Eliminating early arrival, which provides stipends to staff who watch children before school starts, will provide a savings of $11,000, according to district documents.

Most elementary schools in Fayette County start at 7:45 a.m. and dismiss at 2:35 p.m.. Cassidy, Harrison, Mary Todd and Northern start their actual day at 8:25 a.m. because of transportation scheduling. Those schools dismiss at 3:25 p.m.

Most schools open their doors 30 minutes early, but those four schools have been opening an hour early to accommodate parents who have to be at work by 8 a.m. Among the options school district officials gave schools earlier this year was paying for the early-morning program out of existing school funds or charging parents for the service, according to district documents.

Despite the memo, Northern Principal Meredith Ramage said she was "exploring some options" because she thought some parents had a need for the 7:30 a.m. drop-off. About 50 students use that program, Ramage said.

However, principals at two other elementary schools said they were eliminating the program.

Harrison Principal Tammie Franks said her school cannot afford to continue the drop-off program without money from the district. Franks said about 50 children were coming at 7:30 a.m. each morning, but she estimated that parents of only about 15 children need to be at work at 8 a.m. Cassidy Elementary Principal Rhonda Fister also said they would not offer the program next school year.

Fister said about 50 students — out of about 650 — use the program.

Given the small number, she said, "we felt like our families could possibly work that out to find other child care without us having to provide that service."

Mary Todd principal Kari Kirchner said, "We're investigating options, but at this point, we do not have an option that wouldn't involve cost to the parent."

Chief Academic Officer Lu Young said Fayette County began offering the early-morning drop-off at the four schools because parents at the schools were dropping off students before staff arrived.

Schools were advised at the end of the 2012-13 school year that the funding would stop at the end of the 2013-14 school year, in hopes that schools and parents could explore options, Young said.

"But really, when it comes down to it, that's out of the scope of our day and our responsibilities," said Young.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears

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