The USD-379 school board has decided to eliminate waivers and start charging for its after school programs at Wakefield School and is talking about doing the same at Lincoln and Garfield Schools.

They’re also thinking about charging for summer enrichment or cutting it out entirely. Driver’s education is also on the chopping block.

A budget crunch due in part to declining enrollment and inadequate funding by the state in part is contributing to these decisions. But board member Jean Frigon was quite candid at last week’s board meeting in reminding the board that these are programs they don’t have to provide.

However, what they cost is a drop in the bucket compared to what the district spends as a whole. Cutting these programs won’t keep the board from raising the mill levy next year.

They are also the most effective programs out there in reaching at-risk students. If you charge for them -- no matter how small the fee, these kids simply won’t participate.  

Studies show that having a safe place to go to after school has an impact on kids who are most vulnerable. The number one reason kids fail is related to what they’re dealing with at home.

Kids on average lose about two months of what they’ve learned over the summer and spend about six weeks in the Fall relearning what they learned last year, according to study by Oxford Learning. If anything, kids should have more summer learning opportunities, not less.

We’ve seen our school board make some questionable decisions about spending in the past -- from cutting teachers to building a multi-million-dollar softball complex that wasn’t needed. But until now, we haven’t seen the board make a decision that hurts kids.

Ask the board to reconsider the cuts they’re talking about and not cut the small stuff.

--Ryan D. Wilson