MONTPELIER — Details of what a new after-school program for Capital City students might look like emerged at a meeting of the Montpelier-Roxbury Public Schools Board last week.
A draft of proposals says after-school programs provide enrichment and supervised care to students before their parents return home from work, activities that help keep students away from unhealthy or risky behaviors.
The school board issued a request for proposals for after-school programs after the schools severed longtime ties with Community Connections in January. Founded in 2001, Community Connections operated after-school, pre-K and summer programs, mainly at Union Elementary School and Main Street Middle School in Montpelier, and at five elementary schools in the Washington Central Supervisory Union.
But federal funding for the program ended in 2015 when the schools’ number of students receiving free or reduced-price meals dipped below eligibility requirements. Losing Community Connections led to backlash from parents concerned about a lack of supervision for their children, and a committee was appointed to find a replacement.
The RFP received four responses from The After School Collaborative, also known as Part 2, a for-profit program based in Colchester; Montpelier Recreation Department; the YMCA, a national program; and Community Connections.
Superintendent Libby Bonesteel noted the RFP only included licensed childcare, not enrichment programs. But Community Connections did include proposals to continue the enrichment programs it already provides, Bonesteel added.
At last week’s School Board meeting, Chairman Jim Murphy said he hoped the chosen bidder would provide childcare and enrichment for both middle and high school students, paid for with school district subsidies and low-cost fees.
Bonesteel presented the board with a draft planning document, outlining goals of a new after-school program that would increase the number of UES students in licensed child care and extend the program to include fifth- and sixth-graders.
The report noted only 65 students, or 12 percent, of elementary students are currently enrolled in the licensed childcare program, and only about 25 students, or 7 percent, of middle-school students participate in current enrichment programs, numbers the school district hopes to increase to make after-school offerings more equitable.
The report proposes the district spend $37,000 for a half-time, extended day enrichment coordinator to build participation at MSMS, increase club-like activities for UES and plan enrichment programs at middle and high schools. The staffer would oversee registration, fee collection and parent communication and would survey students’ program preferences, recruit club advisors and collaborate with district administrators to expand offerings.
Supervision of programs would be the school district’s responsibility, not the enrichment program coordinator, Bonesteel said.
“The position is key because it allows us to sustain, build and grow from where we are now,” she said.
Bonesteel said ideally, the program would provide alternatives to students not interested in sports, drama or music, and would serve students with special needs.
A sliding-fee scale and scholarships were also proposed in the report, but Bonesteel said the cost structure still had to be determined.
If participation increases, Bonesteel said she might request more funding.
Answering a question from board member Steve Hingtgen, Bonesteel said it was preferable to keep after-school programming separate from co-curricular programming, because it would be more flexible, popularity-based and less problematic contractually.
Board member Bridget Asay said she wants the enrichment program coordinator’s role expanded to include “big picture” oversight of all programs offered, with additional funding from the school district’s fund balance to support it. Fellow board member Michele Braun suggested the position should be full-time.
Bonesteel stressed her report was only a draft and would be followed this week by site visits. The After-school Advisory Committee will meet Friday to discuss feedback from a recent public forum on after-school programming needs.
Bonesteel hopes the committee will recommend one of the providers by the end of the month while the enrichment programs piece would need to be in place by the start of the new school year in September.
Bonesteel said she would provide a range of cost options for ideas discussed by the board and report back.