GUILFORD COUNTY — A popular after-school program of Guilford County Schools will resume in the next academic year for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

The Guilford County Board of Education will restart the After-School Care Enrichment Services program in August for the 2021-22 academic year. The future of the program, commonly known as ACES, was discussed at the board meeting Thursday night.

ACES was canceled at the outset of the pandemic because instruction was shifted remotely and school buildings used for after-school activities were closed. The program remained canceled once students were brought back to classrooms because of social distancing limits within buildings.

Before the onset of the pandemic, more than 4,000 students at 54 elementary schools took advantage of ACES.

Parents will have to pay more for the after-school program starting with the upcoming academic year. The weekly fee will rise from $50 in the 2019-20 academic year to $65 for the upcoming fiscal year.

The registration fee will remain $15, and the $50 deposit would be eliminated.

The fee hike will cover an increase in custodial services and boost salaries to $15 an hour for ACES staff.

Board member Bettye Jenkins asked if school district administrators could keep track of the ACES revenue coming in as the next school year advances to see if the weekly fee could be lowered later.

Board member Anita Sharpe said ACES “still is a bargain,” citing common daily fees of $100 for after-school care in the area.

In another change from the outset of the pandemic, the board decided to resume allowing the public and media to attend meetings starting next month. Meetings have been remote since the pandemic.

The decision came as a group of protesters spent the entire meeting Thursday night chanting outside the board room at the school district’s main office north of downtown Greensboro. The activists say the pandemic has receded enough to allow people back at meetings.

School system Chief of Staff Nora Carr told the board that the school district will put together public safety protocols for the first in-person meeting at 6 p.m. July 13 at the school district main office at 712 N. Eugene St.

In another matter, the board narrowly rejected on a 5-4 vote a policy change proposal that would have given the school district financial staff a greater level of authority to move forward with spending money without prior approval of the board. The change would have raised the ceiling from $150,000 to $500,000 to forego board approval for repair and construction cost spending.

During lengthy discussion, a majority of board members said they were uncomfortable raising the level because it took away from direct board oversight over greater amounts of spending.

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