If the money is not there, the money is not there. That’s how it is with budgets. Bottom line: Something has got to give.
And one something that’s not there in Meriden’s next school budget is funding for the extended day program at Roger Sherman School. It’s one of the things that went by the wayside when the Board of Education trimmed its budget proposal by almost a million dollars. Education accounts for a bit more than half of the city’s $197.3 million overall budget for 2019-20.
In approving that budget, city leaders no doubt were mindful of what happened last year, when a taxpayer revolt led to a referendum, forcing City Hall to go back to the drawing board in August and come up with a leaner budget.
The extended day program has been operating at three elementary schools — Sherman, Casimir Pulaski and John Barry — with funds coming from grants from charitable foundations and the National Federation of Teachers, as well as from the city budget. The program was intended to introduce students in lower-income school districts to enrichment activities available to their wealthier peers.
The program added 100 minutes to the school day and has featured elements such as yoga, karate, dance, music, and swim, through partnerships with the Meriden YMCA, the Meriden Boys & Girls Club and Valentin Karate.
“It introduced (students) to activities and opportunities they might not get,” said Roger Sherman Assistant Principal Anita Gennaro.
Sherman has lost the program after only one year. Pulaski lost it last year, having pioneered it here in 2012. Barry will continue to offer extended day, thanks to a school improvement grant.
"During tough budget times, and as grant dollars run out, difficult decisions need to be made," said Meriden School Superintendent Mark Benigni. "We will offer some after-school enrichment activities at Sherman next year," he said. But that’s no substitute for what’s being lost.
It’s a shame to lose the extended day program, especially after all the praise that’s been heaped on it. School officials have credited it with improvements in math and reading test scores, narrowing the achievement gap on state tests, improving attendance rates, and more.
It’s a shame, but the voters of Meriden have spoken.
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