Santa Lucia Middle School's YMCA after-school program defended

Missed attendance goal means money for the popular activities must be found elsewhere

ktanner@thetribunenews.comOctober 3, 2013 

Some federal funding has been cut for the after-school program at Santa Lucia Middle School, but officials at the YMCA of San Luis Obispo County have vowed to find money to keep the program going without changes.

It’s all about the original estimate of how many kids would be attending the afternoon program by now, and a shortfall of about 3.5 percent in meeting that goal.

“The program is not going to be cut,” outgoing district Superintendent Chris Adams pledged Sept. 16, despite the 2013-14 funding cut of about $30,000. “It’s way too successful for a lot of kids.”

He said he expects the district will backfill part of the lost funding in the short term, and he is working with new YMCA leaders to restore or find the rest.

The team of officials, which will include the district’s new interim superintendent, Rich Malfatti, is set to start applying for next year’s grants in November, Adams added, so they also may be able to find fill-in funds that way, or through donations or other sources.

Within two years of its launch, the middle school program quickly expanded beyond the usual crafts, games, sports and after-school homework help into having newly tech-savvy students training one another and adults in the digital arts, locally and in other communities.

The youngsters prepare videos and short films, start to finish, even for other schools and entities. Adams said two of those films have won awards at the Long Beach YMCA Youth Institute (for this year’s videos, go to http://www.lbymcayi.org/?q=yi_movies).

He also said Coast Union High School participants won second place this summer for their film, and the Y’s after-school high school program hasn’t even officially begun there.

Even though most local educators and parents consider the Y program at Santa Lucia to be wildly successful, Adams said, it failed to meet an attendance benchmark set within the parameters of the federal grant. Instead of being at 85 percent of its attendance goal within two years, the program’s attendance is at 82.5 percent.

According to Principal Kyle Martin, more than 65 students attend the program each weekday, out of 160 enrolled in the school.

Adams said that the Y program at the grammar school “is at 110 or 115 percent of what we set our bar at,” but the newer middle school program has had less time to get attendance up. “By the end of this semester, we’ll probably be over the attendance mark at Santa Lucia. But the rules say we had to meet the goal by a certain date.”

Of course, Adams said with a sigh, all funding that flows down from the federal level is subject to what happens to education each year in the national budget.

Monica Grant, the Y’s new CEO, called the Cambria program “extraordinary” recently and credited the “incredible partnership” among the Y, the school district and the students.

She said she is an enthusiastic graduate of Y programs, and that she’s personally and “passionately committed” to continuing and even expanding Cambria’s after-school programs.

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