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FARRELL SCHOOLS Latchkey program given extension



Published: Tue, August 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The district had notified parents the program would end Aug. 24.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

FARRELL, Pa. -- A group of Farrell Area School District mothers won a 30-day reprieve for the district's latchkey program serving children in first through sixth grades.

The women got notice from the district that the program would close Aug. 24 because of low participation.

Some mothers who use the program showed up at Monday's school board meeting to ask what they could do to keep it open.

Superintendent Richard Rubano said it is a matter of economics.

The program, officially known as the Farrell Day Care School-Age Program, needs eight or 10 full-time participants to make it economically viable, but it has only five pupils enrolled now, he said.

The program was losing as much as $50,000 a year five years ago, and although things have improved, it is still losing $20,000 a year, he said.

Some parents pay a direct fee to have their children attend the latchkey program, which is open before and after school. Others are eligible for state assistance because of their incomes.

The rate is based on the actual number of hours attended but is about $20 a day.

It's a program Farrell has offered since the mid-1970s, but Rubano said that it undergoes a financial review each year and that this year the staff and administration recommended shutting it down.

Who qualifies: There was some confusion about who can be counted in the program.

Some women in the audience said the number enrolled is higher than five, but Rubano said some of those children are in kindergarten and state regulations don't allow them to be counted as participants in the school-age program, even though some do occasionally spend time in the school-age room.

Christine Penzerro of Negley Street said the district didn't give parents adequate notice of the closing and Felicia Moorer of Fleetwood Court, Wheatland, said she has a list of about 10 children whose parents want to use the program. However, some of them are kindergarten pupils, she said.

Thirty-day extension: Rubano said the district will give the program a 30-day extension while it seeks ways to keep it operating. The bottom line is the program needs about 10 school-age participants to be economically viable, he said.

He advised parents to make alternative plans for the care of their children in the event the program closes, adding that the district will provide referral services where possible.

He said that the board's preschool committee and administrators will schedule a meeting to discuss the issue and that Lezlie Somerset of Spearman Avenue will be the parent's representative at that session.




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