After-school program will continue

COSTA MESA — The city will continue to match funds for the ROCKS after-school program through the end of this fiscal year.

The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to continue the program at seven of 11 elementary schools and add the Costa Mesa Middle School's teen center.

However, only schools that chose to participate financially will be able to provide the Recreation on Campus for Kids After School (ROCKS) program.

Adams, Kaiser, College Park and Killybrooke elementary schools will no longer offer ROCKS.

The city will also keep the community pool open, but with modified hours of operations. In a 3-2 vote, the City Council voted to close the pool on the weekend and at 2 p.m. on weekdays.

The pool will now operate from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The changes will reduce city's costs by about $37,000 this fiscal year.

With a starting point of about $16 million in budget deficits this year, Costa Mesa was faced with major cuts in programs and services. One of those services was the 30-year-old ROCKS program the city offered free of cost to families.

The program serves, on average, 736 students a day.

Community volunteers worked to find a way to keep the program from getting eliminated. Meanwhile, the City Council decided to match any funds raised by schools or their parent-teacher associations in order to keep the program alive.

Many schools participated in fundraising, but by September, some announced that they can't take on the responsibility of raising the funds.

Mitchell Kaucher, a Costa Mesa resident with three children who participate in ROCKS, urged the council to keep it during the meeting on Tuesday.

He said he and his wife are faced with giving their 11-year-old son the key to the house and duties of locking doors and watching his younger brother. The other option is putting their children in a similar program at the YMCA that costs $400 a month — money the family doesn't have.

"I urge you to look at the safety of our children, give them an opportunity to be in a safe environment from their hours between schools and when their working parents get home to take care of them," Kaucher said.

The Kauchers were among the families who participated in raising matching funds to keep the program.

In other news, the City Council voted unanimously to direct staff to investigate amending the city's recycling center ordinance.

Staff will look into some changes in the city code that might make it tougher for recycling centers to open in the city.

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