SIDNEY — The first step was taken Monday night to implement a Latchkey program for Sidney City Schools.
The Board of Education approved the before school and after school program for students in kindergarten through fourth grade beginning with the 2018-19 school year. With the approval of the program, the next step will be to hire a director, said Brooke Gessler, curriculum director.
The need for a latchkey program in Sidney was first discussed in May 2017 during a Family & Children First Council meeting, said Superintendent John Scheu. Changes in existing childcare providers have changed and the result is a crisis for parents seeking reliable childcare for their children.
The before school program would be open at 6 a.m. The after school program will start when classes end and will close at 6 p.m. Anticipated tuition for the program will be $65 a week for full time students attending both morning and afternoon programs; $42.50 for part time students attending morning or afternoon programs; and $15 for an emergency drop in. Each additional child will be $40 per week for full time program and $27.50 for the part time program.
Gessler said if there is bad weather and Sidney City Schools is delayed, the before school latchkey program would still start at 6 a.m. If school is canceled after students have already arrived for the day, the latchkey program would remain open until 6 p.m.
If school is closed the latchkey program will also be closed.
“What’s changed in the last two years, the last four years,” said Scott Barr, Shelby County United Way executive director. “In the last two years, Tender Hearts and Rogy’s have closed.”
The state of Ohio, said Barr, has cut funds to the Headstart program.
Four years ago, said Barr, Sidney City Schools was leasing Lowell Elementary School to the Rural Council Services for preschool programs, which included Kid’s Learning Place South. Those programs are no longer in operation.
“There are needs for infant care, toddler care, preschool care and before and after school care,” said Barr. “Additional care is needed across the spectrum. There is an interest, a demand for those slots.
“There’s a significant wait list as these agencies have closed,” said Barr. “There’s not a county in our region that’s taken a hit (to childcare providers) that we have.”
Barr said the two locations where daycare facilities were located are not available for a provider to open a new facility. One, he said, has been demolished, and the other is now a retail business.
The Salvation Army, said Barr, is 100 percent subsidized for its childcare programs. The Sidney-Shelby County YMCA serves more than 200 children in its childcare program.
“If Sidney Schools opens a program where the parent can pay, then it may open spaces at the Salvation Army and YMCA,” said Barr. “The Salvation Army program is just afterschool.”
Nancy Stiefel, Shelby County DD Early Intervention director and Wilma Valentine Preschool director, said their preschool program is only for children ages three to five years old.
“Families ask me ‘where should we go when we leave you,’” Stiefel told the board. “There’s the YMCA and Kiddieland. Their options have diminished. There are private providers and some don’t want that.
“It would be beneficial for us to be able to tell parents that Sidney City Shcools has a program,” she said. “This is a hardship on families.”
Stiefel said she hopes that all childcare providers will work hand-in-hand to offer care to as many children as needed.
One of the latchkey program that local officials visited was at Vandalia Schools.
“I worked at Vandalia 20 years ago when the program was first getting started,” said Stiefel. “Their program now goes yearround. They have the ability to give great service to their parents.
“Financially, the childcare industry is a hard one to make money. But you’re in the business of serving students. The latchkey program would give the students time to work on homework,” said Stiefel.
Scheu, Gessler, Stiefel, Principal Eric Barr, Director of Food Services jason McLain and board member Mandi Croft visited Vandalia Butler Schools in June 2017 about their program. Another group visited the latchkey program at Greenville Schools.
In July 2017, SCS surved the district seeking feedback on the interest of a latchkey program. Results from the survey were received in October 2017.
Of the 99 people who responded to the survey, 83 percent would be interested in a latchkey program before/after school. Ffity-eight person are interesteed in an all-day summer latchkey program.
One person responded, “I believe that the latchkey program is a big help to families were both parents work full time jobs. In our economy, this is ever increasing, leaving those without regular childcare with additional worries about where there child is and who they are with.”
Gessler said right now the biggest variable is how many students will be enrolled in the program.
“We could see 190 kids just from the survey results,” said Gessler. “The sooner we get the registration out to parents, then we’ll know how many children will be involved. Parents are looking for daycare right now for next school year.”
The goal, she said, is to send the latchkey information home with parents during kindergarten registration, which is planned for the week of April 9.
The actual sites for the program won’t be determined until enrollment numbers are received. Scheu said all four elementary schools are available to be latchkey sites.
“How many kids are needed to pay for the director?” said Treasurer Mike Watkins. “We won’t know that until we know how many sites will be needed.
“I can run as many scenarios as possible,” said Watkins, “but the first year, you might have to be willing to say ‘let’s try it.’ Once we know the level of participation and where they’re at (site).”
The Greenville program has 16 students, said Gessler. The director handles the entire program.
“It’s just her,” said Gessler. “She has her own classroom for the program and it has a restroom. So the students don’t have to leave it.”
The sites in the Sidney elementary school buildings, she said, would require a second adult in the classroom as the student can’t go to the restroom by themselves. A second adult would remain with the rest of the students.”
Greenville, said Gessler, is doing a summer program for the first time this year.”
The anticipated opening date for the program is Aug. 16, 2018.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.