Education

‘We have zero options’ as Boys & Girls Clubs cuts shuttle services

Popp’s Ferry Elementary School students in Biloxi ride on the Boys & Girls Clubs IP Center bus on Wednesday. After Friday, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast’s five clubs will no longer provide after-school shuttles from area schools because of budget cuts.
Popp’s Ferry Elementary School students in Biloxi ride on the Boys & Girls Clubs IP Center bus on Wednesday. After Friday, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast’s five clubs will no longer provide after-school shuttles from area schools because of budget cuts. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

About 500 children from two South Mississippi counties are about to be left standing at the curb.

After Friday, because of an accounting error that shorted the state’s financing for Boys & Girls Clubs, shuttle services from 13 schools to Coast clubs’ after-school programs are set to stop.

Keva Scott, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast, said all five clubs in Harrison and Hancock counties will be affected.

Scott said she is talking with Coast school boards to see if they might be able to help out with transportation. The Harrison County School District has offered two school buses, and she’s working with Biloxi.

For many, many parents, this is a safe place for their kids. Most of the parents are working parents. They rely upon us to keep their kids safe...This is a big dilemma for us and them.

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast CEO Keva Scott

“I’m reaching out to school districts,” she said. “I’m still waiting to hear from others. At this point, no one has said no.

“For many, many parents, this is a safe place for their kids. Most are working parents who rely upon us to keep (their children) safe. Some don’t make enough for child care. Some have multiple children.

“This is a big dilemma for us and them.”

She said she will have a full listing in the near future of which schools will be able to fill the transportation void.

An internal error by the Mississippi Department of Education resulted in an announcement Aug. 11 there would be less funding for after-school programs across the state.

The five Coast clubs face cuts in state funding of $500,000 for Harrison County and $150,000 for Hancock County, about one-third of their total budget, Scott said.

I think it’s egregious. We didn’t see it coming. And when it came, it came as no fault of our own.

Keva Scott, on cuts to after-school programs

The Coast clubs’ programs for about 1,200 children will be affected, she said.

Additionally, Scott said, 20 adult staff are at risk of losing their jobs or having their hours reduced.

“I think it’s egregious,” she said of the cuts. “We didn’t see it coming. And when it came, it came as no fault of our own.”

In a letter to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast, Kim Benton, Education Department chief academic officer, wrote: “The MDE Office of Federal Programs (OFP) did not account for the funds needed for the continuation grants when it awarded the 46 new grantees for the 2015-16 school year.

A parent reacts

Hancock County parent Brad Griffith, who has a 5-year-old and 8-year-old attending separate Waveland schools, said he was informed of the transportation issue Wednesday.

There’s no other option here in Hancock County. We have zero options. We’re basically penalized for being working parents.

Brad Griffith, parent of two children who participate in after-school programs

“This really put us in the lurch,” he said. “I work all over the Coast. My wife works in Gulfport. We’re scrambling to figure out what we are going to do with transportation for our kids.”

Each child costs clubs between $2,500 and $3,000 a year. It costs parents $50 a month unless they qualify for assistance.

“There’s no other option here in Hancock County,” Griffith said. “We have zero options. We’re basically penalized for being working parents.”

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

Schools affected by Boys & Girls Clubs cuts

Thirteen BGCGC schools that participate in the program were singled out by the Mississippi Department of Education:

▪ Bel-Aire Elementary, Gulfport

▪ Pass Christian Elementary

▪ Crossroads Elementary, Gulfport

▪ D’Iberville Elementary

▪ Harrison Central Elementary, Gulfport

▪ Lyman Elementary

▪ Orange Grove Elementary, Gulfport

▪ DeLisle Elementary

▪ Three Rivers Elementary, Gulfport

▪ D’Iberville Middle School

▪ Pass Christian Middle School

▪ North Bay Elementary, Biloxi

▪ Waveland Elementary

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