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After-school program vote fails

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Chilton County Board of Education was divided on renewal of a contract between Clanton Elementary and the YMCA of Chilton County for the Chilton County Children’s Club after-school program during the April 21 meeting.

The meeting was streamed live on YouTube, and all board members were present, either in person or virtually.

Clanton Elementary Principal Rebecca Threlkeld explained that the program was requesting a renewal of the agreement for next school year as well as requesting permission to apply for grant funding for the program.

A motion to approve the requests failed. Board members Keith Moore, Chris Smith and Jaqueline Sullivan voted in favor. Board President Angie Sanderson, Vice President Pam Price and Brian Jackson voted against. Patterson recused herself from the vote because it involved her employer, the YMCA of Chilton County.

Superintendent Jason Griffin said he plans to bring the topic up for a vote at the next meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for May 19.

Prior to the vote, Price and Sanderson expressed several concerns based on phone calls they received. Threlkeld said the information callers provided to the board members was inaccurate.

“Every child that applies to that program is allowed to come to that program,” Threlkeld said. “We have never put a child out of that program for not being able to pay.”

The program has existed for the past three years.

In the past, the program has been funded through a 21st Century grant, which will expire in September. The application is a partnership between the two organizations, with the YMCA handling the funds as the fiscal agent. Threlkeld said a previous chief school financial officer for the school system had recommended the YMCA be the fiscal agent. Price expressed concern that the finances were not reviewed as a part of the school system’s audit. Threlkeld said the program’s finances are reviewed by other sources, probably with more scrutiny than other school system programs.

Grant funds do not cover the entire cost of the program.

“The grant funds are the same whether you are serving 45 children, or it is serving 150 children,” Threlkeld said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed school buildings to students for the remainder of the school year, the after-school program was serving 350 students.

“We request a $70 donation, which comes down to about $2.50 a day,” Threlkeld said. “They are told upfront, and it says in our information if you have any financial difficulties please contact us.”

Sanderson said principals should be aware of this. Threkeld said principals were given a copy of the agreement which stated this but commented that maybe more could be done to ensure they understand the financial assistance available to students.

Griffin said the opportunity to participate in the program is open to all Chilton County Schools students in preschool to sixth grade. The program is also open to students at Chilton Christian Academy as required by federal law.

Sanderson said she had calls from parents saying their school was not participating because there was a requirement for 10 students from the school to be going before a school bus would take students there.

“We have said that in order to be a good steward of the school system’s busing. To run a bus for one child is not financially feasible,” Threlkeld said.

Sanderson asked that the board be provided with additional information about the program before making a vote.

Threlkeld said if the board gave her a list of what they wanted, she would get them all of the information they asked for.

She also reminded the board that there is a deadline to apply for the grant funding.

“Let’s go ahead and vote for it and get the information later,” Moore said.

In a separate request, the YMCA of Chilton County asked to use the Chilton County Schools buses for two summer camp field trips, which is a separate program from the after-school program. Expenses for use of the buses would be paid for by the YMCA. This is an arrangement that has been in place for seven years. This request was approved. Patterson recused herself.