Recreational Organizations Face Obstacle Following New School Cutbacks
By Jericka Duncan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – “Fox Rok has worked with the various schools for over 50 years where we’ve used their gyms and that’s the way we’ve always worked,” said Joe Grant.
Joe Grant is the Fox Rok Athletic Association Director of Basketball in Northeast Philadelphia. From November to March he uses public schools, like Fox Chase Elementary, for free, to coach dozens of children including three of his own.
But starting this weekend, he will have to pay the district to use Philadelphia public school facilities on the weekend and anytime after 8 p.m., during the week.
“We’re not talking about a couple people, a couple kids hanging out in the gym,” said Grant. “Our organization, there’s 300 people, citywide there are thousands of kids that now are not going to have anything to do.
School district spokesman Fernando Gallard says closing public schools on the weekends and one hour earlier Monday-Friday, comes down to saving money and closing a $61 million dollar budget gap before July.
Gallard says the projected savings by closing early and on the weekends is $2.8 million dollars.
“It’s a combination of utilities but mostly it’s for paying workers to work on the weekends, which is like time and a half,” said Gallard.
At his Chamber of Commerce luncheon Mayor Michael Nutter talked to a packed crowd about the districts latest plan to cut costs.
“No one likes this, no one wants to do this, but the district is in serious financial difficulty right now, and they’ve had to put a lot of things on the table that no one wants to do,” said Mayor Nutter.
To parents and coaches like Joe Grant, there has to be a better way.
The new plan takes effect this Saturday. All lights, boilers, chillers, and H-VAC systems will be required to power down all together on the weekend, and by 8 p.m. during the week.
District officials say groups that want to use their facilities after hours will have to pay whatever it would have cost the district to keep it open.