LA PUENTE — After evaluating the viability of what has quickly become a costly after-school enrichment program, city officials have decided to slash the club from a second area location.
The City Council in December eliminated its STARS after-school program at one of its three active sites, the La Puente Community Center, because of its dismal participation rates and increasing operational costs.
In an effort to further reduce expenses, city officials recently voted to cut the program at its Hurley Elementary School site once the school semester is over.
Officials said the move will allow for the money the city spends to run the program to be used elsewhere in the community.
The money that “we’re spending is for a very small population,” Mayor Dan Holloway said. “We can use that money for (recreational) programs to serve for the entire community, whether through the community center or special events we have for youth. “
The program’s third and largest site, Fairgrove Academy, will remain open until other cost-effective options are available.
“We have provided services to these schools, but they have other options,” Holloway said. “No one is going to be negatively impacted by this. “
The STARS program – an after-school homework and recreation program sponsored by La Puente’s Parks and Recreation Department – has been around since about 2001, when it started
at St. Joseph’s School.
It was then extended to several schools throughout La Puente to serve as a more affordable alternative to more expensive after-school care programs.
Parents currently pay about $30 a week and an annual $25 registration fee for supervised care, homework assistance and age-appropriate activities.
But the costs have now gotten too expensive to maintain the program, which was later reduced to three locations, city officials said.
In December, the entire three-site program was running at a $10,500 deficit, said Recreation Manager Roxanne Lerma.
While parents pay for a majority of the costs of the program, the city’s recreation department’s budget picks up the shortfall to run it.
Having historically low enrollment figures, the community center had been in direct competition with the Boys and Girls Club once it opened next door in 2009. During the 2012-13 fiscal year, the community center’s program had an average of three children a week and was operating at a net deficit of $2,780.
The Hurley site, running on a $6,800 deficit, currently has 16 enrolled students, but the average number of weekly participants is seven, Lerma said.
In hopes of increasing participation, city staff updated their fliers and held an informational meeting for parents, but there was no impact, officials said.
“The Hurley Elementary school site still continues to struggle,” Lerma said. “The STARS program did not gain any new participants. The impact of discontinuing the STARS program will be minimal mainly because it’s a designated Options enrichment site. “
The Options program is a nonprofit that also provides many of the same activities and services the STARS program does. It is free of charge.
Cutting the program from the Hurley site is expected to save La Puente about $13,000 a year.
The Fairgrove Academy site has an average of 74 participants. The deficit there is about $900.
Although officials opted to continue operating the Fairgrove program, Holloway said he wants the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District to take charge in leading after-school services there.
“School districts basically have after-school programs,” Holloway said. “I don’t want to be duplicating services where there’s another service available and those funds could be used for the entire recreation services for our entire community rather than just at one school. “