Newly implemented, a years-old rule shakes up Berkeley County after-school programs
When Angel Roberts enrolled her daughters, there wasn’t a dance program at Daniel Island School.
So she started one.
At first, she taught 20 or so children, but what began as a small-scale operation blossomed into Peace Love Hip Hop, a business that now teaches kids and adults throughout the region hip-hop dance. Last year, Roberts said, it had attracted about 230 students at Daniel Island.
Come fall, though, that number will drop to zero.
That’s because of a rule approved by the Berkeley County School Board in August 1981 that doesn’t allow for-profit businesses like Roberts’s to rent space in county schools.
Until this month, that rule hadn’t been fully enforced; the district didn’t realize a group of after-school programs wasn’t complying with it until it conducted an audit last year, said Amy Kovach, its spokeswoman.
Kovach said the policy was written to ensure that schools’ facilities would be reserved for classes and school programs.
Elsewhere in the region, school districts have mixed policies.
Charleston County schools allow approved businesses to rent out space after school, said Jason Sakram, the district’s spokesperson.
Dorchester 4 Superintendent Jerry Montjoy said the issue hadn’t come up in his district, and Cathy Bishop, who runs Dorchester 2’s after-school programs, said hers only hires in-house teachers to run after-school programs such as karate and dance.
Implementing the rule in Berkeley County has affected about 10 programs throughout the district, Kovach said. At Daniel Island, that includes art, martial arts and Roberts’ hip-hop dancing classes.
But the policy allows one exception.
Such businesses are OK, it says, if they offer students an activity “desired” in a school’s curriculum. That exception is granted by the school’s principal and the superintendent.
Roberts has lobbied the school to grant her one and gathered about 150 letters from students and their parents, she said. Daniel Island principal Marty French, too, counts herself as a fan of the class.
“I think the students really gained from being involved in the program,” French said. “I think the program is really wonderful.”
The problem? Those programs may have support, but the policy only allows curriculum-based programs. That means they have to take place during the school day, follow state curriculum and include some sort of assessment, Kovach said.
Kovach said the district, too, would like to keep the program at Daniel Island and that to do so Roberts would have to be hired by the Ocean Club, the school’s in-house after-school program, as an instructor. There, she’d be paid up to $27 per hour.
That, Kovach acknowledged, could represent a big drop in compensation for some instructors. For Roberts, it’s down from the $10 per student per week she’d been earning before.
Most of the other programs have made plans to become compliant, Kovach said, and whether Roberts will follow suit remains to be seen.
A meeting between Roberts, French and Superintendent Rodney Thompson later this month may decide the issue.
Reach Thad Moore at 958-7360 or on Twitter @thadmoore.