Statement of Support for Community Connections
Statement of Support for Community Connections
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
As parents of Montpelier Roxbury students, we are gravely concerned by both the MRPS decision, and the process that led to the decision, to not renew Community Connections’ contract with the district for out-of-school care, and to instead contract with the for-profit Part2 based in Chittenden County. We are articulating our numerous concerns here.
WHAT MAY BE LOST: HOW COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS CURRENTLY SERVES MONTPELIER.
UNION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
- Reliable, caring after-school programming that is flexibly planned around children’s needs.
- Vacation and inservice day programming to meet the needs of working parents.
- Care on the new late start mornings.
- Summer camps covering most weeks of vacation.
MAIN STREET MIDDLE SCHOOL
- Experiential education including cooking, xc skiing, mountain biking.
- Vacation and inservice day programming.
- Summer programs such as Adirondack trips, kayaking at Green River Reservoir, and more.
- Affordable downhill skiing with the Bolton Ski Program.
- MSMS lacrosse team.
- MSMS golf team.
- Meaningful collaboration between CC staff, and teachers, parents, and other organizations, such as coordinating cross country skiing opportunities with Onion River Nordic, and organizing the kickball tournament at the Fall Festival.
MONTPELIER HIGH SCHOOL
Clubs including such school institutions as the newspaper, and the outing club.
AFFORDABILITY and FLEXIBILITY
While Community Connections’ budget has dropped 75% since 2015, they have managed to serve MORE children at the same affordable low rates. Unlike the for-profit Part2, CC meets the needs of real families by allowing part-time enrollment, does not charge change fees, and works tirelessly to create access to quality after-school care for ALL families, regardless of income. CC is also dedicated to serving the most vulnerable children in our community, foster children, who often need to quickly get into the program and whose families cannot afford to pay — CC figures out how to make it work because they are motivated by a social mission, not a bottom line.
Finally, Community Connections is not just about warehousing children while parents are at work. It is about human relationships between passionate CC staff who come back, year after year, and children and youth who need reliable, caring adult role models in their lives. These relationships are touchpoint for our children.
PART 2 IS UNSUITABLE FOR MONTPELIER.
- There will no longer be a sliding fee scale. Prices will increase fairly significantly for some families.
- Families pay when school is closed for inservice and holidays... it's a weekly rate, no matter if they provide coverage.
- Part2 charges a $30 registration fee and a $30 schedule change fee.
- It doesn't appear that Part2 offer in-service camps or school delay / before school programs, which so many families rely on.
- It is unclear from the limited communications with parents whether Part2 will offer the sort of robust after-school and summer programming at MSMS and MHS that Community Connections has offered, and at what cost.
- If Part 2’s commitment to quality out-of-school care is measured by their interest in professional development and collaboration with their peers, we are disappointed to see that they are not members of Vermont Afterschool. Community Connections is a member of this learning community.
OUR STANDARDS FOR DECISION MAKING.
We are deeply disappointed at the poor process that led to this decision. As a community, we expect our elected and administrative leadership to solve problems by:
- Engaging in fact-finding that includes the viewpoints of all affected constitutencies.
- Articulating concerns to affected parties, with adequate opportunity to strategize solutions to address said concerns.
- Consider creative and collaborative strategies.
- Communicate clearly, fairly, and respectfully with all affected constituencies.
THE REALITIES OF OUT-OF-SCHOOL CARE
Many parents sought, over the holiday break, to better understand the challenges of providing high-quality, out-of-school care. We would like to share our findings:
- Community Connections lost their federal 21st Century grant due to Montpelier not qualifying with enough children on free/reduced lunch.
- CC had been diligently creating a financial safety net for themselves; they have been spending it down to continue to offer services since they lost this significant federal grant. Those funds are largely dried up now, and CC is working hard to balance affordability and quality.
- The school district funds CC with just $36,250.
- The MRPS “After School Programs Assessment Committee”, including CC Executive Director Alex Rob and current school board member Bridget Asay, produced a 2016 report to the school board that states: "More institutional support is necessary to maintain existing programming and even more so to expand programming: Continued financial support is necessary to maintain and expand after school programs. The Committee strongly believes that the success of after school programs has and will continue to show evidence in the success of students in both traditional studies and activities and in the growing scope of what is considered achievement in the 21st century educational curriculum. The Committee requests the School Board to continue the discussion necessary to expand after school programming.”
- Only three other non 21C federally funded middle school programs exist and they are all in Chittenden County at rates up to 10x higher than CC (Part 2 is 4 - 6 times more expensive).
- A survey of students and parents were generally pleased with the MSMS after school programs with some recommendations of additional offerings. 94.6% of students expressed satisfaction.
- CC cannot serve more children at Union Elementary School because due to the state regulations for a licensed child care program. Options for other space likely exist elsewhere in the community.
- The Union program subsidizes the middle school and high school programs so prices can stay low and families will use the programs for older students.
In conclusion, we respectfully request that the school district:
- Put a hold on all negotiations with Part 2. If a contract has been signed with Part 2, we seek to understand the district’s options to vacate that contract.
- The school board form a committee composed of equal numbers of parents, including parents with children in each school, district staff, and school board members with a charge to:
- Building on the district’s 2016 report, this committee shall survey Montpelier and Roxbury parents to understand the out-of-school needs of families with children of all ages.
- Access the expertise and resources of Vermont Afterschool.
- Work closely and collaboratively with Community Connections to identify challenges and solutions.
- Explore creative options to expand out-of-school offerings, such as through partnering with the Montpelier Recreation Department.