The Kyrene School District and the city of Phoenix have reached an agreement to preserve a popular, inexpensive after-school program at five schools through the end of the school year. Kyrene and Phoenix had been discussing how to save the Phoenix Afterschool Center, or PAC, from being withdrawn from the district over a disagreement in charges. "We have worked out an agreement," said Tim Valencia, spokesman for Phoenix's Parks and Recreation Department, which administers PAC. "PAC will continue until Dec. 21. After that additional agreements will have to be worked out. But it will be at all five schools." The compromise will make the program cost parents $105 for the fall semester, with $15 paid to the city of Phoenix and $90 paid to the Kyrene School District. Previously, the program cost Kyrene parents $85 for an entire school year. "They're going to work directly with families who participate in the program, so you'll pay one fee to the city and one fee to Kyrene," City Councilman Greg Stanton said Tuesday, talking to parents outside the Kyrene School Board meeting at which he announced the deal. After that, the city and school district will meet again to decide how to move forward. "We'll be talking to the district again in September to see if we can get the fee reduced," Valencia said. State law requires school districts to charge facility rental fees to outside organizations, and such fees can be waived only if the programs housed in district space "promote the educational function of the school district." Kyrene officials said PAC did not do that, and said that forced the district to charge. Rental fees were going to cost the city about $100,000, charges that got passed onto parents - parents in districts that don't charge the fee pay $15 for PAC enrollment for the school year. To get the fee reduced, Valencia and Stanton acknowledged that PAC would have to increase its educational relevancy to Kyrene students. "We're looking at ways to make it more supportive of academic activities during the day," Stanton said, explaining that more effort would be made to align PAC activities with lessons, themes and curricula students were working on. The dozen or so parents who attended Tuesday's board meeting to learn PAC's fate said they were pleased with the outcome. "This is great news for all of us," said Rick Bishop, a parent with a child in the Kyrene de la Esperanza PAC program. PAC had been offered through Lomas, Lagos, Monte Vista, Esperanza and Sierra elementary schools for years, but the city abruptly announced in June that it would not be offering the program to Kyrene families in the 2007-08 school year. The decision outraged many parents who had come to rely on the program's relatively inexpensive price tag - the closest alternative is the Kyrene Kids Club, which costs parents $209 per month for five-day enrollment. "You have no idea how upset people have been," said Lynn Butzko, a parent with a child in the Kyrene de los Lagos PAC program. "I'm here representing about 20 people. Everyone was extremely up-in-arms." Registration for PAC starts July 14, and the program runs the duration of the school year - Aug. 6 to Dec. 21. Last year, the program enrolled 533 students. Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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