ROCKS out of fiscal reach

COSTA MESA — Seven elementary schools announced Thursday that they will not be able to provide matching funds for the city's Recreation on Campus for Kids after School (ROCKS) program, which leaves the program without enough funding to continue there.

The principals of Kaiser, Adams, Pomona, Victoria, Killybrooke, College Park and California elementary schools informed city staff that their PTAs cannot help the city fund ROCKS.

"I'm sorry that neither the Pomona PTA nor any other funding source I know is in a position to assist the city financially to continue the ROCKS program at Pomona Elementary School," Principal Stacy Holmes wrote in an e-mail to the city.

The principals did not make the decisions, district spokeswoman Laura Boss said. The principals of the remaining six schools gave similar reasons.

Costa Mesa has been offering the free ROCKS program to all students for more than 30 years.

During budget negotiations this summer, ROCKS, which sees a daily average of 736 students during the school year, was one of the programs slated for elimination in order to save the city $276,316 annually.

The city did not eliminate the summer ROCKS program, which costs about $25,000, said Lisa Mcpherson, Costa Mesa recreation supervisor.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley and many parents urged the city, schools and the community to work together to find ways to sustain the program. They organized fundraising events at school sites, which led the City Council to keep ROCKS until further analysis was completed.

The issue was brought back to the City Council in August and a decision was made to split the funds by asking the 11 school sites where ROCKS is held to match it. The City Council is scheduled to review the progress of the program and its funding again in November.

So far, only three elementary schools — Sonora, Paularino and Davis Magnet School — have committed or raised enough funds to match and continue the program.

Whittier Elementary has not made a decision yet, but is expected to on Friday.

Hydee Beth, a Victoria Elementary PTA board member, said her association already raises funds for many activities for the school and it cannot take on the burden to help finance yet another program.

It costs about $25,000 a year to run ROCKS at Victoria, Beth said. The school PTA's share would be about $12,000.

"Our PTA already fund raise to pay for school supplies, enrichment activities, family events and other after-school programs like the drama club," she said. "To come up with another $12,000 is cumbersome."

Beth said this doesn't mean that the program is invaluable, but that the PTA cannot commit to raising more money.

"My thought is it's valuable," she said, "but rather than putting the burden on the schools, the city should make it a fee-based program like other cities do."

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