Over the Hill

Buses needed for programs in Paso

During the coming school year in Paso Robles, we may see more children after school on the streets without supervision. School officials have announced they’ll no longer provide regular school bus service in the city.

The children who usually go to after-school programs such as the Boys & Girls Club won’t have buses to take them there. The directors of those programs and school officials are seeking a solution to this problem.

Many parents don’t get home from work until 5 or 6 p.m. They often rely on after-school programs to look after their children. Until now, their children could ride to those programs on the school buses.

A pupil from a school in southeastern Paso Robles could ride to an after-school program in northwestern Paso. There, he or she could get tutoring, do homework, create art or play sports.

But like most California schools, Paso Robles schools have been pauperized in recent years by shrunken tax revenues and unreliable state support. To make ends meet, Paso Robles district officials have made drastic cuts. One cut was in school bus service. The buses will now serve only pupils from rural areas.

I spoke this week to the directors of four Paso Robles after-school programs. The biggest program seems to be the Boys & Girls Club, which rents a building on the Flamson Middle School campus. It has about 400 registered members, about 100 of whom show up every day after school.

Another program is the YMCA operation at Centennial Park, which serves 20 to 30 children each day. It also has athletic and cheerleading programs for middle school pupils.

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing runs an after-school program at Canyon Creek Apartments. It serves about 60 pupils every day from four elementary schools.

Positive Exposures Afterschool Enrichment Program rents a building at Flamson Middle School and serves up to 40 elementary school students.

Paso Robles school officials have offered a school bus to take children to the various programs for $31,000 this year. Each after-school program would pay a share.

That may be hardest for the Boys & Girls Club. It will probably owe the biggest share, since it has the most users. It receives no government grants and charges no fees except dues of $20 per year. It depends on donations. Maybe it can get a foundation grant.

How did we let our education system end up in the poorhouse? To me, this is a patriotism issue. America’s future depends on our younger generation getting the finest education, not the cheapest.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.