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Hillsborough after-school parks program to return in limited form

TAMPA — A semblance of Hills­borough County's after-school parks program is slated to return by the end of the month.

County commissioners gave final approval for a plan that will revive a facsimile of the recreational offering at many locations. Even with modest enrollment, cost projections to maintain the program should enable it to keep running, said Commissioner Ken Hagan, who pushed for the rescue.

Under Hagan's plan, after-school programs would begin operating again Sept. 24 at 18 county parks. The vote was unanimous with Commissioner Mark Sharpe briefly out of the meeting room. The plan to keep program alive still involves eliminating dozens of parks jobs. Most of the employees would be replaced by up to 45 part-time contract workers to drive the cost down.

Those new workers will operate a privately developed program that allows study time but focuses on some form of exercise.

The weekly fee will fall from $48 to $38, with children who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches getting charged $20 or $30, respectively.

Commissioners previously agreed to scale back the program, which has been heavily subsidized by taxpayers, to just 11 locations. But it was not a popular decision in the eyes of many parents.

County administration has long advocated eliminating the program, a mix of structured and free-form but supervised recreation that some parents use as low-cost day care. Officials say the program has become hard to justify in the face of declining tax receipts, particularly because county elementary and middle schools provide a similar service.

With the school year approaching, Hagan proposed his hybrid plan, adding 18 sites to the 11 approved this summer. Under what was approved Thursday, if any particular location does not maintain enrollment of at least 15 children, it may be eliminated.

Hillsborough after-school parks program to return in limited form 09/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 11:13pm]
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