Homework program change questioned

May 4, 2012
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The Boston Public Library’s (BPL) popular Home Assistance Program (HAP) is to be folded into a broader out-of-school program, according to BPS spokesperson Gina Perille. Library friends groups are questioning the move.

“I’m not sure I know what BPL means when they say a much broader program,” said Marie-Claire Durmonay, president of the Friends of Parker Hill Branch Library.

Fran Streeter, co-president of the JP-based Friends of the Connolly Branch Library, believes the move is actually a ploy to kill it.

Perille responded that the library has no intention of ending HAP, and said in fact, it will expand under the new after-school program. She said that BPL recently began a survey that will determine the scope of the new program.

The homework program currently provides free homework help by high-achieving high school students for students in grades K-8.

Durmonay said the homework program “is a great win-win situation.” She noted the younger children receive tutoring, while the high school students have a dynamic job that looks good when applying for college and allows them to gain valuable skills.

Perille said BPL is conducting surveys with the students who use the program and those who don’t to get their ideas and comments about what the out-of-school program should offer.

“We are looking forward to the input we receive,” she said.

Perille said BPL hopes to complete the survey by the end of May, and spend the summer on planning. The expectation is to have the new program in place for September.

“It’s a bigger umbrella,” Perille said about the new program. “Under that umbrella, there will be more variety.”

Durmonay said smaller branches like Parker Hill and Jamaica Plain might not be able to run multiple programs at the same time and doesn’t understand why BPL is changing HAP.

Streeter said she has no proof, but believes in her “heart of hearts” BPL has already decided to end the program.

“I don’t think they’ve gathered the info,” Streeter said of BPL’s actions. “I think the decision is premature. It doesn’t seem like it was a measured decision.”

The Friends of Connolly recently sent President Amy Ryan a letter urging the library to continue fully funding HAP.

“My thoughts are, if you have a program that works, why would you end it?” said Fran Streeter, co-president of Friends of the Connolly Branch Library.

Streeter, who noted that Ryan has not replied to the letter, said she finds the thought of the program ending appalling. She said watching the terrific program operate can bring tears to one’s eyes.

The homework program, which runs at the Parker Hill Branch Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., will continue in its current form through May, when it usually ends.

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