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Which five Buffalo schools are losing their afterschool programs and why it was so hard to find out

Today's story by Tiffany Lankes mentions five Buffalo public schools that were originally promised afterschool programs -- and had already started them -- only to find out that those programs aren't being offered any longer because of funding shortfalls.

These are the five schools affected:

  • School 81
  • Hutchinson Technical High School
  • Hillery Park Academy
  • Olmsted School 64
  • Discovery School 67

All five schools are schools in good standing with the state, schools the district has determined will be least hurt by the lack of after school programming.

We asked both the district and Say Yes to provide us the names of the five schools that had started afterschool problems but are either being forced to abandon them or find ways through their parent organizations to run the programs themselves.

The district provided a spreadsheet that was difficult to decipher, and David Rust, the executive director of Say Yes Buffalo, also had difficulty coming up with the information. Finally, District Parent Coordinating Council President Sam Radford came up with the list of five schools, and explained to us how to read the district's chart. Thanks, Sam.

In a follow-up message late Monday, district spokeswoman Elena Cala, said the five affected schools were originally scheduled to end their afterschool programs at the end of December, but were extended to January 30th. The programs were funded through the general fund or grants. She also said it was "incorrect" to say in our story that the programs that ended last Thursday were "cancelled."

"They were in fact extended one month beyond their original end date," she wrote. "By way of analogy, it would be like saying school is cancelled this June 27th, rather than saying it ends on the 26th."

That's one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is that the original expectation of the collaborators of Say Yes, the district and these five schools was to allow these five schools in good standing to continue offering afterschool programs through the spring. That was part of the public presentation given to the school board in mid-December by Supt. Pamela Brown and David Rust. The fact that the district changed its mind based on funding issues is, in effect, a "cancellation" of its original plans.

This information was conveyed to Cala. She responded, "The Say Yes programs began today, for the first time, in the district. While it is true that they did not begin in these 5 schools, it is not factual to say any programs were cancelled. The District programs ended in these schools. Say Yes programs did not begin in these schools. What you refer to as an expectation is better characterized as a possibility that was discussed.  Unfortunately a funding source was not ultimately found because our budget was finalized last May without this possibility included."

Here are the facts: The budget was finalized in May. The presentation to the board regarding the 2013-14 program rollout for afterschool programs was made in December. That presentation said seven schools in good standing would receive programs. Subsequently, all the schools in good standing told their parents that they could look forward to afterschool programs for their kids this spring semester. Last week, five of these schools have told their parents the "disappointing" news that these programs are no longer being offered.

They must not have realized that these programs were a "possibility" not an "expectation."

-- Sandra Tan

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |