By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
When Child, Youth and School Services began transporting children of military and Department of Defense civilian employees from off-post schools to the Fort Knox School Age Center and the kindergarteners at the Child Development Center in January 2009, Rayceil Oggs, the director of CYSS, believed she would have enough money to fund this project.
But that changed when the program became too expensive to fund, and Oggs didn’t want to project that cost onto parents.
“When we started transportation with off-post schools (and) were getting ready and preparing for BRAC, one of the concerns that we found out (was) Hardin County Schools in particular did not have space at the time for those Soldiers who were going to be coming to us in great numbers,” explained Oggs. “They did not have space in their after-school programs. At that point we had started into Knox Hills and privatized housing. They did not have adequate housing on the installation because so many houses were being torn down and in the process of being rebuilt.
“A lot of our Soldiers had to stay off the installation. And some of the schools did not have the potential for these children to go into their after-school programs. They did not have the space at the time. Fort Knox made a decision we were going to assist Soldiers and Families who were coming in here in pretty big numbers at the time to transport (their children) from off post to our on-post after-school program.”
Oggs pointed out that after transportation began on post Hardin County Schools began building their after school programs.
She also said funding became the major issue with off-post transportation because CYSS doesn’t receive transportation funding from Installation Management Command.
Oggs said a $30 fee was added to the child-care cost for off-post transportation at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.
“We looked at stopping transportation at the beginning of the school year,” said Oggs.
But instead, Oggs and Becky Laux, the Fort Knox school liaison officer, didn’t halt the transportation because they wanted to provide parents with more than a two week or 30-day notice. If that would have happened, Oggs and Laux believe parents wouldn’t have been given ample time to find child care.
Oggs pointed out that the transportation commitment needed to run at least through December. Instead of having it run through the end of the calendar year, Oggs said CYSS-provided transportation will run through Feb. 4.
She then had Laux contact HCS to ask what kind of assistance, if any, they could provide to the students.
Laux learned that New Highland and Rineyville Elementary Schools didn’t have the physical space, or the state won’t certify them for extra students in their programs. She said those two school will continue providing transportation to SAC.
Oggs also said the money that the Army provides to CYSS is given to implement internal programs, and unfortunately, transportation isn’t considered an internal program.
Oggs and Laux pointed out that if CYSS were to continue providing transportation, parents would have to absorb the cost, and that would cost as much as $300 more per month, which would be in addition to the current cost parents pay for child care. If only half of the parents agreed to that cost it would increase to $600 per month for transportation.
“We looked around to see if any money (was available), we couldn’t find any,” Oggs said. “We had some who struggled with the (additional) $30 per month (that was added at the beginning of the school year). Some requested a payment plan.”
“We tried very hard to find an alternative source,” Oggs said. “We didn’t want (to end transportation). A lot of children have been with us a long time. We are not only attached to the children, but (we have become) attached to the Families as well.”
Since the Army doesn’t provide funding for transportation, Oggs said the funding would have to come from CYSS programs.
One of the alternatives available to Soldiers is moving into on-post housing because transportation will continue for students who attend on-post schools.
Laux said last week she spoke to Knox Hills and was told they had 100 homes available.
“Last January we suspected there might be some funding issues,” explained Laux. “We put the word out and (talked to) three or four bus companies (about) the opportunity of bidding on the contract. (The companies) didn’t want to do it, it wasn’t worth it.
“Hardin County struggles to have enough (buses) for their programs and they didn’t want to pick up three (additional) routes.”
Even though the transportation to off-post schools will also have a trickle down affect to the staff at SAC, Oggs said staff members won’t lose their jobs. Their hours might decrease, but Oggs said they will be reassigned to the Child Development Center or Devers Middle School and Teen Center.
Laux pointed out that off-post children will still be allowed to attend SAC if parents provide transportation to the center.
“(Those children) will be given priority during the summer, spring break, (HCS) professional days and inclement weather,” said Laux.
If parents opt to send their children to a HCS after-school program, they would normally have to pay the intersession fee because their children would no longer attend SAC on a daily basis. But, Oggs said the program will attempt to work out a plan that will defray some of the cost.
“We haven’t worked through that yet,” she said. “(We are) going to the command to see if we can give some kind of grace period or grandfather those parents.”
Oggs and Laux admit this was a difficult decision, but it had to be done because of the cost at funding transportation.
“We are saddened (that) we had to do this,” Laux said. “We couldn’t get funding for this.”