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City schools detail partnership with YMCA for after-school program

After more than two months of discussions, Charlottesville City Schools is ready to partner with the Piedmont Family YMCA to expand its after-school program known as CLASS.

The proposed partnership would provide up to 90 spots at each of the school division’s seven after-school locations and change how registration works to include in-person and online sign-ups. Registration for next school year will start in early May.

“That means there will be no need for parents to wait in line this year,” said Bev Catlin, the division’s CLASS coordinator.

Additionally, the option for students to attend part-time will be eliminated as part of the plan.

Tuition for the program would stay the same for next year, as well as the CLASS programming and curriculum. Staff members will continue as Charlottesville employees.

CLASS, which is self-sustaining, serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade daily throughout the school year.

At the elementary level, full-time fees range from $74 to $248 per month, depending on family income. At Walker Upper Elementary, the full-time monthly rates range from $67 to $220.

Catlin and YMCA officials talked with the School Board on Thursday night about plans for the partnership. The board will vote on it at its April 2 meeting.

Both groups have emphasized that they want to ensure “a seamless transition” for families.

As of Feb. 25, 416 students were enrolled in CLASS, and 99 students were on the waitlist. The expansion would add up to 214 new spots, but each site would be capped at 90 students because of capacity constraints at the schools.

“That’s the space available to us,” Catlin said. “Schools have other things going on.”

To accommodate additional students, the school division would need to hire 12 additional staff members and the YMCA will help recruit for those jobs and provide some staffing. CLASS has an 18:1 student to staff ratio.

“Ninety children is more than we have at any site currently,” Caltin said. “We believe that we will be able to meet the needs of the community.”

School Board Chairwoman Jennifer McKeever wasn’t as optimistic.

“It is deeply worrisome because it is a limit,” she said. “And we have many limits this year, and the last thing we want to do is have a proposal that is already limiting.”

Demand for CLASS has increased as the economy has improved, and the waitlists for the program have been a concern among families.

Board member Juandiego Wade serves on the CLASS Parent Advisory Committee and said the limits were discussed among committee members.

“We couldn’t, in one year, address the whole problem, but this goes a long way,” he said.

The division started talking to the YMCA in January about its after-school program.

Jessica Maslaney, CEO of the Piedmont Family YMCA, said after-school programs are in the organization’s “wheelhouse.”

“I think what really attracted us to this partnership was the true collaborative spirit of it,” Maslaney said, adding that the YMCA could partner with the school system on other programs. “… This is the first step of what the future of our partnership could look like.”

Families who sign up during the first week of registration, from May 4 to 8, and fall within the 90-student limit will be guaranteed a spot, according to the presentation.

The school division also is planning to eliminate the part-time option for students. Of the students currently enrolled, 348 attend full-time, meaning they go to CLASS every day of the week.

Catlin said most after-school programs are only full-time and that the part-time option was added when the economy wasn’t as strong and more people only required limited after-school help. About 68 students are signed up for CLASS part-time.

Next year, CLASS and the school division will continue to have major responsibility for the program, Catlin said.

The YMCA will collect payments from parents who choose the automated bill payment option, and that money will go into an account set up just for the program.

CLASS currently doesn’t serve students in the division’s preschool program. Maslaney said the organization is exploring ways to provide after-school care for preschool-age children.

“The Brooks Family Y opened two years ago, and we’re still working on that,” she said.

McKeever asked Maslaney about the YMCA’s religious affiliations and how that would affect CLASS.

Catlin said the school division will oversee programming and curriculum used in the program.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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