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Boys & Girls Clubs to close site

Friday, January 8, 2010

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge will close its Irisburg club site at the end of this school year.

The decision was prompted by the ending of a federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant and the downturn in the economy, according to a news release from the clubs.

The grant is awarded to areas that have the greatest need to increase students' academic performance. The local clubs received $186,300 in each of the past three years to help run sites at Sanville and Irisburg elementary schools.

However, the increase in standardized test scores at Irisburg and Sanville elementary schools has made the sites less competitive for the grant, the release states. For the current school year, these sites have been funded entirely by community donors.

The action to close Irisburg was considered only as a last resort and after implementing several other cutbacks and cost-saving measures, the release states.

"The Irisburg site is a victim of its own success, and its closure affects everyone associated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge," said Executive Director Anne Frazier. "The teachers and students accomplished great things in getting test scores up, and sadly we are no longer considered "˜in need' of the grant."�

The 21st Century grant program has changed its emphasis to fund after-school programs at middle schools. Although the most recent grant application to fund Irisburg and Sanville operations was not successful, a grant application by Henry County Public Schools with the Boys & Girls Clubs as a partner was awarded to serve Laurel Park Middle School. This gives Irisburg students an opportunity to continue being served by the clubs through their Teen Center when they reach middle school.

Irisburg was chosen for closure in part because it serves the fewest children. Sixty-two children are on the rolls at Irisburg, with more on a waiting list due to budget constraints.

Frazier said Sanville has slightly more club members and the capacity to handle more.

Although the Boys & Girls Clubs provide more than after-school care for working parents, the organization felt it needed to let the school and families know about the closing so that they would have ample time to plan for the future, the release states.

"If sufficient resources become available, we plan to be able to maintain our operations at Irisburg. However, we are not aware of any additional opportunities at this time," said Frazier.

A limited number of slots will be held available for Irisburg club members who wish to continue attending the Boys & Girls Club at one of the other locations at Patrick Henry, Albert Harris and Sanville elementary schools.

The organization hopes to offer employment for the five Irisburg club staff members, all of whom are part-time, at other sites through attrition. In all, the clubs have three full-time employees and about 37 part-time employees, Frazier said.

"The decision to close Irisburg did not come lightly and was made after difficult discussions with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge finance committee, board of directors, staff and leadership," said Will Gravely, president of the 2010 board of directors. "Our motto is "˜Be Great,' and the staff and students at Irisburg personify that motto. We have worked hard to take advantage of grants and other funding sources outside of the community, and have provided a service to our Irisburg Club members, their families and the Irisburg community that will have a lasting impact."�

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge annually provides after-school services to more than 730 youth ages 5 to 18. Its services include programming in education, career development, character and leadership development, the arts, sports, fitness, recreation, health and life skills, and special events.

Club sites are Albert Harris Elementary, Patrick Henry Elementary, Sanville Elementary, Irisburg Elementary and "The Club" Teen Center at Christ's Church off Spruce Street Extension.


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