The YMCA of the Golden Crescent’s Victoria ISD after-school program is in limbo.
The Victoria school board voted 6-0 on Dec. 19 to partner with Right at School, an affordable and flexible after-school program. Starting in the 2020-21 school year, it will replace the YMCA program, which is currently operating in 12 of 14 district elementary schools. Board member Kevin VanHook did not attend the meeting.
The YMCA has offered after-school programs for VISD for 28 years, said William Oliver, president and CEO of YMCA of the Golden Crescent.
“We’re scrambling,” he said.
The current YMCA after-school program, which operates until 6 p.m., requires a $45 registration fee and costs $50 a week for Y members and $65 a week for community participants. If students drop in, the cost is $12 a day for members and $15 a day for nonmembers. There is a $5 weekly fee discount available for each additional child with up to $20 off at a given site.
Aside from Victoria ISD, the program is available at Barbara Bauer Briggs Family YMCA and Pinnacle Pointe Apartments.
Oliver and the YMCA board are looking at continuing the after-school program at other locations, such as area churches, but his biggest concern is transportation.
“We’re looking to try to find spaces close to the schools so that kids don’t have to travel too far, but that’s going to be a process,” Oliver said. “We don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that.”
Oliver said he is disappointed in the way the district handled the process. He said YMCA officials were not aware that the school board was voting to replace the program until the night before the vote.
“We were never given a chance to talk,” he said. “We didn’t think we’d have to monitor the school board meeting because no one told us we were in jeopardy.”
More than 300 VISD students are currently enrolled in the program, which will continue into spring 2020. About 150 of them are on a need-based scholarship to waive program fees, Oliver said.
“If we go away, then what happens to those families?” he said.
Oliver said he wishes the district would continue using the YMCA of the Golden Crescent, which is a Victoria-based program. Meanwhile, the Right at School program is based in Illinois.
VISD Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said the decision was not made lightly to present the board with Right at School as an after-school alternative.
“It goes all the way back to my listening and learning tour at the district about a year and a half ago,” he said.
During the past 18 months, he has reviewed the district’s partnership for after-school care, and he decided it was time for a change.
“Our primary job is to offer the very best to our kids,” he said in regards to cost, academic support and hands-on learning. “We just felt like Right at School was the option that checked all those boxes.”
Right at School is a for-profit company based in Evanston, Ill. It is a flexible program with homework help and includes enrichment curriculum for English, social studies, science and math courses.
The program fees are based on the number of days students use the program in a given week. Options vary from one to five days a week, costing $64 to $240 a month.
A discount of 10% is available for siblings and 20% for students who receive free and reduced lunch.
The program will run in 12 of the 14 district elementary schools where the YMCA program currently operates. Right at School operates after school from 3:15 to 6 p.m. with full-day camps available during district holidays.
Shepherd said the cost for parents was a key reason for suggesting the change to the school board.
He emphasized that parents who send their children only a few times a week can save hundreds of dollars a year with Right at School.
“We were really comfortable with what they offered and the lesser cost for parents,” Shepherd said.
The program will be presented to parents at a hands-on learning night 6:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Dr. Robert A. Jaklich Conference Center.
School board president Tami Keeling said she voted in favor of the change because Right at School offers a cost-effective program for families.
She said approving the new program doesn’t mean the YMCA program failed. She said the board wanted to advance the after-school program and felt Right at School was the right choice for the district.
“Whenever we are looking for a provider, it’s very competitive because we are going to find the best that we can find,” Keeling said. “Our kids deserve no less.”