The pandemic has caused extracurricular activities and other peripheral K-12 programs to suffer, and Moscow School District leaders said after-school and summer programming could be in jeopardy if the pandemic isn’t ended by midsummer.
Superintendent Greg Bailey said the program, called Adventure Club, is a nonprofit after-school and summer program that gives elementary-aged children a safe place to socialize or work on schoolwork when their parents aren’t home. He said the after-school program lasts from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., costs parents $8.50 per day and is usually able to sustain itself. However, with restrictions causing them to greatly reduce the number of students who can participate on a given day, the program has had to dip into its savings to remain solvent.
“We had some reserve funds for that program and right now, we’ve been having to utilize those reserve funds,” Bailey said. “If we continue as we are now, by about midsummer we’re going to be out of all of the reserves we have for that program.”
With the program losing money, Bailey said Adventure Club’s summer activities — which usually cost $24.50 per student per day — may also be at risk. He said these programs were designed to sustain themselves on participation fees, which also cover snacks, supplies and the occasional field trip, but with reduced participation, it’s been difficult to keep the budget balanced. He said if the district can’t right the ship, there will come a day when the programming will have to be eliminated completely.
Bailey said the district’s driver’s education program has suffered as well and for similar reasons. With participation halved, the $165 student dues haven’t been able to cover the cost of the program and its instructors.
“To get all their driving time and everything, it just wasn’t able to be done with the full 30 (students and) the 30 students typically take care of us financially,” he said. “It hurts us a little bit but it also means less hours for the instructors.”
With fewer students enrolled, the payout for instructors has been lower, Bailey said, and many who depended on the gig for a little extra cash are hurting.
He said shortfalls in the program have forced them to tap into the driver’s education program’s reserves as well. He said the program typically has two vehicles in inventory, which have to be changed out every few years, and program reserves usually cover that cost.
While it is less than ideal for driver’s education to deplete its savings merely to stay afloat, there is still a lot of time before district leaders would have to make hard decisions about whether to continue the program, Bailey said.
Bailey said these shortfalls are due in part to a roughly 6 percent budget reduction for public education entities mandated by the state at the end of the last school year. He said many, including Idaho Gov. Brad Little, seemed to be under the impression that COVID-19 relief funds could be used to help assuage some of those cuts, but because of requirements surrounding how those dollars could be spent, many peripheral programs fell through the cracks.
“The technology funds, we were able to replace and that’s where we used a lot of our COVID dollars was for those one-to-one devices we ordered,” Bailey said. “But there were still some areas that we weren’t able to replace.”
Bailey stressed the best way for people to support schools is to follow public health and safety orders and to get vaccinated as soon as possible so pandemic restrictions can be ended.
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.