Board opts to bring back after-school program

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Mamie Martin after-school program cancelled earlier this yearis coming back, but parents will have to pay more to have theirchildren participate, district officials said Tuesday.

The Brookhaven School Board voted unananimously Tuesday torescind an earlier motion that did away with Mamie MartinElementary School’s after-school care.

Officials also discussed changes that will need to be made inthe program, such as a $15 price increase from the original $55 to$70 a month per child. The new price scale will go into effect atthe beginning of the next school year.

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The program was scheduled to be discontinued May 31.

Board President Carl Holloway said since the parents hadreceived a letter telling them of the discontinuation of theprogram, they should also receive one telling them that it wouldnot be closed.

“We said we’d get back to the parents with a decision. We justwant to notify them ourselves so they don’t hear it somewhereelse,” he said.

The program is being continued under “home rule,” which is partof legislation passed in 2006 that allows a school board to adoptorders, resolutions or ordinances on district affairs, property andfinances as long as it is consistent with state law.

Superintendent Lea Barrett said the DeSoto School District isseeking an Attorney General’s Opinion to insure that schooldistricts do have the right to institute their own after-schoolprograms.

Board attorney Bob Allen said he had found no legal reason thatthe school district could not continue the program, but that so farthere also was no law that said it could either.

In other words, the DeSoto County opinion could throw theprogram back out if the AG’s office comes back and says the schooldistrict has no grounds or right to have its own after-schoolcare.

“He can’t find specific authority in the law to do it. It’salways a better course of action to have an Attorney General’sopinion,” said Barrett. “It’s just foreign ground to us. Up untilschool districts got home rule, they weren’t supposed to doanything for which they were not given specific authority.”

Board members said they were reinstating the plan with theknowledge that if any part of it was found not to be in compliancewith the AG’s opinion when it is issued it could be greatly alteredor ended again completely.

“Basically if the Attorney General were to say it can’t be done,we’d have to shut it down,” Allen said.

Holloway said the home rule and pending opinion were both partof the consideration when the board voted two months ago to closethe after school program.

“That was the whole thing last time when we decided to do awaywith it,” Holloway said.

Barrett said the issue is something families who opt to use theafter-school program should be aware of, though it may not even bea concern.

“I think the families should be aware of this so they can decideif they need to take the chance that it could be discontinued,” shesaid.

Holloway said it is his hope that after-school care at MamieMartin would be able to continue for quite some time.

“We’ve done this for 25 years, and hopefully we’ll be doing this25 years from now,” he said.