Parents voice concerns after city ends after-school programs
ABILENE, Texas - More than a hundred parents will have to find alternatives to the after-school programs provided by the city of Abilene. The city sent parents a letter announcing the decision to end its after-school programs starting May 26. The decision to begin phasing out the programs was made during a city council workshop on Jan. 31. To help ease the transition, city leaders will host meetings with the parents and alternative after-school program organizations. "I was devastated … it's not just an after-school program, it's a family our kids can go up to these people outside of [the programs] and they feel loved, they feel secure," said Victoria Rangel, who has three children who attend a city-provided program. She attended the first meeting on Thursday along with other parents at the Rose Park Recreation Center, but representatives from child care programs outnumbered the parents. They offered their services that included fees and limited transportation. Abilene Boys and Girls Club Director Mark Young says the organization is at capacity and has a long waiting list. YMCA, and the Alliance for Women & Children were also present. Each organization said they have scholarships and programs available for parents who need assistance. Cynthia Alvidrez, a single mother of two, said financial assistance is hard to come by if you don't meet the criteria. "You are going to have to either leave [the children] at home, which a lot of these folks are going to end up doing, or find relatives--if they have relatives--or quit their jobs," Alvidrez said. Abilene City Councilman Bruce Kreitler was present to hear parents' concerns. Kreitler said parents are better off placing their children with better childcare providers who have space and proper care. He said the city's decision to end the programs--like most decisions--rely heavily on budget. "We have a lot of things that we would like to do, that the city would like us to do, and we have a limited amount of dollars to do it with," said Kreitler. This upset both Alvidrez and Rangel. "As the representatives stated, it's about money, the funding," Rangel said. "They're concerned about roads or they're concerned about different signs or whatever the circumstances are, but not truly our kids." Lesli Andrews, the director of community services for the city of Abilene, said the facilities at Rose Park, Sears, Cobb and Daniels will not close. Other programs like summer camps will still take place. She said no staff members will be losing their jobs, but four part-timers will be let go.
The city plans to have three more meetings with parents: Feb. 22 at Sears Park, Feb. 23 at Daniels Park and Feb. 27 at Cobb Park.