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Before School Program Stoppage Irks Parents
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A parent speaking at a recent Riverbank Unified School District meeting, the first since the opening of the 2011-12 school year, complained there was no before school program at Riverbank Language Academy (RLA) this year.

John Zampo said he found the school's academic program excellent. For that reason he was willing to drive his second grader quite a distance, through two other school districts in fact, to deliver his child to RLA, but found no adult supervision available even at 7:40 a.m.

With both parents in many families working and child care so expensive, a before and after school program is not an option nowadays, he said. Every school needs one.

Outgoing RLA principal Bill Redford commented later the academy had been forced to drop the before school program this year for lack of funds. The 21st Century funding had been transferred to Mesa Verde when students of the former Rio Altura School (located on the same campus as RLA) were transferred to Mesa Verde.

RLA provided supervision from 7 a.m. until school began at 8 a.m. for several years, said another school official last week, but had stopped it this year.

Parents had complained, she said, but her main concern was no official notification of the program's suspension went out to parents before the first day of school and the school had apologized for that and corrected it with a letter.

Another parent who has a kindergartner at RLA making use of the after school program told the board there are many options available for finding funds to run a before and after school program. Waterford, Modesto and Tracy school districts all operate programs using money other than the federal 21st Century funds. She suggested partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs or a city recreation department.

Michelle Guzman suggested a school could even resort to charging parents, perhaps levying a fee on a sliding scale to accommodate different income levels.

Project A.C.T.I.O.N (Afterschool Care Together In Our Neighborhoods) operates the Before and After School program for RLA, Riverbank High, Cardozo Middle, California Avenue Elementary and Mesa Verde Elementary schools out of the Casa del Rio Family Resource Center using 21st Century Grant funds.

Project ACTION is a community recognized after school education, enrichment and recreation program serving more than 52 percent of the children within the Riverbank Unified School District, said officials.

"The program provides a safe haven for students of grades Kindergarten through 12th grade during the critical hours after school - at no cost to parents. California Avenue, Cardozo and Riverbank High also offer before school programs," reads a Casa del Rio pamphlet.

But, at least for now, the before school care is no longer available at RLA.