EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — After running several years in a deficit, the school district’s before- and after-school program is getting a revamp to increase participation.
During a town hall meeting last month, school officials spoke directly with parents about what they needed in a program, and the consensus was consistency, structure and more hours.
“My big thing is that the private one is open many times when the school one is not. I work in a hospital, my husband is a police officer, so we rely on that,” said parent Lorie O’Donoghue, who sends her children to private care.
About two dozen parents attended the meeting May 23 at the Alder Avenue Middle School. The day before, the school officials met with about six private day-care facilities in the township to learn about ways they can complement each other instead of competing.
The meetings followed a proposal last month by the district to terminate bus service to commercial day-care providers to make routes more efficient, which Superintendent Kim Gruccio decided against after parents voiced concerns.
Many said they needed to use private care because the district’s before- and after-school program, called Kids Klub, couldn’t meet their needs.
Gruccio said audits in the past have shown the program was not producing revenue, and was actually costing the district money, so they decided to put a focus on it.
“What are your needs? What do you need with a before- and after-care program?” Gruccio asked those in attendance.
According to figures provided by the school, Kids Klub had a deficit of $49,530 in 2018. The year prior it operated with a $112,847 deficit. The deficits date back to 2013.
Kids Klub is currently operated out of the Davenport and Slaybaugh elementary schools and costs parents $5 per day for the morning session and $7 per day for the afternoon. Parents can drop off students as early as 7 a.m. and pick up as late as 6 p.m., but the program does not operate when the school is closed.
Assistant Superintendent Stephen Santilli said Kristen Boyd, who runs the district’s ASPIRE after-school program for fourth and fifth graders, will be in charge of Kids Klub next year, and that the program will also get a new name.
He said the restructured program will align to the district goals of embrace, engage and educate. The district wants to incorporate science, technology, engineering and math, as well as art and reading in the program.
“We are huge advocates of student voice and choice, so we want to build that into the program as well,” Santilli said. “Educate, we want them going home with their homework completed and you being able to just check that over, and really having more family time. More and more we know that that time is valuable.”
Parent Kim Dempsey, who uses Kids Klub, said her daughter would benefit from a consistency in the staff, which she said changes from day to day.
Stephanie Pedrick, who spoke against the transportation change at April’s school board meeting, told administrators at the parent meeting May 23 that she needed reliable hours and times for child care, even when school is closed for snow days or holidays.
Other parents also said they would like to see the students separated into smaller, quieter groups with options for more structured activities or free play.
After the meeting, Gruccio said she felt it went well.
“Building relationships is very important to us. I really enjoyed meeting the parents and providers and hearing their suggestions. This lends to us customizing a program that fits the needs of the parents and students,” she said.
The district officials said they are working to unveil the new program in the near future.