PS154 Loses After-School Program After DOE Permit Cost Skyrockets

PS154 Loses After-School Program After DOE Permit Cost Skyrockets
Students at a previous after school program. Courtesy of PS154.

In a year already rife with change for Brooklyn’s public schools, PS154 in Windsor Terrace is dealing with yet another loss. Their after-school program has been canceled for the Fall season after the cost of their Department of Education permit increased from $33,000 to $93,000 in just one year.

PS154 usually has around 200 children in the program, but After School Executive Director Barbara McGouran says that this year in order to maintain distancing, there were only going to be 60. With decreased enrollment and fewer available days, the nearly three-time increase to the cost of the permit proved unsustainable.

The permit covers things like the use of the school’s multimedia room, lunchroom, and schoolyard, and is mandatory to participate in after-school programs. Usually, the price for parents is only enough to cover the base cost.

In a typical year, the increase in the permit cost is “not even noticeable”, McGouran said. The school usually gets the cost waived, but knew that wouldn’t be an option this year as waivers were only available to DOE programs. PS154’s is a non-profit. This change in waiver allowances seems to be a result of the higher cost of sanitizing and cleansing schools, McGouran says.

The school hasn’t yet been given any explanation for the huge increase from the DOE yet.

“The receptionist at the school processed it, and she had a hard time even reaching the permit department of the Department of Education. Finally, she sent an email, and the only confirmation she received was ‘yes the cost of the permit is increasing this year,’” McGouran said.

Today, Friday, September 25th, the program sent an email to parents announcing that they would not be continuing.

“Logistically, the current DOE permit expense is insurmountable, especially with revenue being significantly lower and an unlikely possibility of growth until we have more solutions for dealing with COVID-19,” the email stated, further announcing that the school would reapply for the permit in January of 2021.

Nicole Brier has a child at PS154 and is the After School Liaison for the PTA.

“I feel like this is just another blow for public school parents. Our plates are overflowing, we’re completely drowning, and this was one vestige of our old school life. We were like, ‘at least we have after-school! It’ll give us a space to breathe, but more importantly, it’ll give the kids a chance to be in the schoolyard [and] see their friends that they’re only seeing on Zoom’,” Brier said. “I think it was just so good for the parent hearts and the kid hearts. It would just be such a good mental health thing for everybody.”

Brier added concerns that the cancellation would force parents into private programs that they couldn’t afford. The program ensures that any child who wants or needs to attend will be able to do so through scholarships.  PS154 had even planned a park-based program for remote learners, separate from the hybrid students.

As a result of the cancellation, people will lose their jobs, many of whom were young people who are trying to get into education. The staff size depends on the enrollment, but would have been a minimum of 3 full-time staff, 19 part-time staff, and 6 independent contractors.

The DOE did not return a request for comment in time for publication.