Department to ask council for $270K for launch
By Jeff Simms
Beacon city and school officials are considering an afterschool program that, if implemented, would provide a variety of daily activities at South Avenue, J.V. Forrestal and Sargent elementary schools.
Glenham, the fourth elementary school in the Beacon district, is located in Fishkill, so its students can already participate in afterschool programs offered by the Fishkill Recreation Department. In fact, Beacon Recreation Director Mark Price said that his son has taken part in programs at Glenham, which inspired Price to investigate what could be done in Beacon. “I’d come to work and the three district schools within the city limits didn’t have programs,” he said.
Other parents noticed the void as well and expressed their concerns about a shortage of safe activities for younger children in Beacon.
“There has been a real need for working families to have steady afterschool care,” said Clarice Allee, president of the South Avenue Parent-Teacher Association. In addition, “parents who stay at home who would like the option of enrichment within a flexible schedule. The draw is for their kids to remain in their school building — in a place they feel safe and comfortable, surrounded by familiar faces, to engage in activities and social experiences that are a little different than what they participate in throughout the regular school day.”
Price said he is hopeful that the Beacon City Council will allocate a total of around $270,000 in funding for programming in this fiscal year and the next. He also believes they could be self-sustaining fairly quickly.
“If we have 10 percent participation [about 100 children between the three schools], we can build a program that’s pretty affordable and can break even,” he said.
As proposed, the programs would launch this September at the three schools and run weekdays from dismissal until 6 p.m. The daily schedule would include homework help, team play, a snack and a different specialized activity each day, ranging from yoga to music and movement to “classic” sports like kickball and soccer to a “kid’s kitchen.”
“We look at each day as a flavor, and those flavors can be as diverse as our community,” Price said. “Our goal is enrichment and to provide a safe, fun afterschool program.”
Ideally, the programs would be a partnership between the city and the school district. The city would provide staff and programming, while the schools would provide the space.
“I think any time the school district can work with the municipality to provide services to our facilities, it’s a win-win for all,” school board President Melissa Thompson commented.
Costs would be between $13 and $15 per day, Price said. (The Fishkill program is around $11 per day.) Parents would be able to sign their children up for single days or by the week. A survey Price posted at surveymonkey.com has generated nearly 200 responses, with approximately 97 percent positive feedback.
“This is a great start,” said City Council member Omar Harper, who participated in similar programs while growing up. “I’m 150 percent behind this. I can almost guarantee that I’m in a better spot because of a program I went to from third to fifth grade. It built [positive] habits in me.”
Harper said his only concern is that the programs are affordable. “It’s hard for the lower- to middle-class families to handle adding to their monthly expenses, and a lot of times those are the kids who are going to need this as much if not more [than others],” he said.
Price hopes to get a decision on the proposal from the City Council in May, which would give his department time to get the program up and running before the school year begins in September.