No county summer programs in Amphi schools - The Explorer: Import

No county summer programs in Amphi schools

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Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:48 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Pima County will not offer its low-cost children's recreation program at public schools this summer for students in the first through sixth grades.

Because of logistical reasons and a likely misunderstanding, Amphitheater probably won't be using funds it could have gotten from the county to offer a substitute program.

The county program, which for years has offered to kindergartners through sixth graders two months of sports, crafts and fieldtrips for a fee of $10 to $100 depending on financial need, has ended the program for licensing reasons.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security is tightening down on its licensing rules, which require all people who provide daycare services for a fee to be licensed by the state.

"D.E.S. told us if we continue to charge for programs, we're providing child care, and we're not able to meet the guidelines to be accredited by D.E.S.," said Kate O'Rielly, the county's community resources director in charge of the summer program.

She added that Pima County Admin-istrator Chuck Huckel-berry told her to get out of the business of providing the service directly.

Huckelberry said it's better handled by school districts.

"It's fairly simple," he said. "We think the school districts can actually perform a better function in running a summer after-school program."

To help school districts accomplish this, the county has offered each of them the same amount of money that it put into the programs at their schools last year.

It has offered Amphitheater Public Schools $18,268 to run the program that had 82 students last year, and it has offered Marana Unified School District $38,915 to run the program that had 196 enrolled last year.

But at Amphi, which has had programs at Harelson and Walker elementary schools, the $18,268 the county is offering isn't nearly enough, said Todd Jaeger, the district's associate superintendent.

"It's simple - the bottom line is that it's just not enough money to pay for what they're requiring," Jaeger said, adding that he doesn't see any possibility of the district and the county working out an agreement in time for this summer.

O'Rielly informed the district of the change in March.

Jaeger replied in a letter that just as the county was not licensed to offer daycare, neither was Amphi. He said the nonprofit organization Community Extension Programs, which has a relationship with the district, was licensed and already offered day care on school grounds.

The extension program sent a letter requesting $27,000 from the county - the amount of money it calculated it would need to offer a half-day summer recreation program equaling the county's at a similar minimal fee.

O'Rielly replied with a proposed intergovernmental agreement with the school district that offered the original amount, $18,268, for a more complicated summer program than the county had offered.

The proposed agreement stipulated that the district run the program from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., rather than its traditional hours of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and that it have at least 120 participants - 38 more than last summer.

Jaeger said the school district was surprised when it got back an agreement with these higher terms.

"I'm not angry with the county or anything like that, I'm just not certain they understood that we would have the same problems and perhaps even more so than they had, when they are talking about essentially expanding the program," he said.

O'Rielly said the county was letting school districts come up with their own stipulations, and the ones in the proposed agreement would have had to have come from Amphi.

"To the best of my knowledge, we developed a request for proposals and put out the proposals and school districts responded with parameters," she said.

Huckelberry said the stipulations must have been a mistake and "what we may have had is some other staff member dreaming up something to put in" the agreement.

"What we want to do is help (the school districts) be successful, not constrain them," he said. "We don't want to put any artificial barriers in their way. We want to give them the most flexibility to accomplish what they want to accomplish. They're the only ones who can judge that, not us."

Jaeger said he was pleased to know that, but that a recreation program still probably won't happen this summer.

"I frankly don't see that it's possible for this summer," he said. "I can't imagine how we could possibly do this in the kind of time we have to work with."

Students have the option of participating in the summer program provided by Community Extension Programs, Jaeger said. However, non-reduced rates are $60 a week for the option of participating six or fewer hours a day, as opposed to the county's fee last year of $100 for eight weeks.

"You can't say to one group they get one rate by virtue of the fact they were former county customers and not do something like that for existing personnel," Jaeger said.

At its June 8 meeting, Amphi's governing board is scheduled to discuss whether to keep negotiating with the county about funding for a summer program.

The Marana Unified School District will probably take the county up on its offering of $38,915, said Superintendent Rick Lesko, but parents should not expect a program for their children that matches the county's low fee.

"My main focus is that parents understand we didn't have any control over this," Lesko said. "We're going to incur expense where we didn't in the past and it's not that we're profiting from it, and it's not our decision - those were the cards we were dealt."

The district-run Learning, Enrichment and Play program, which is licensed to provide child care, hopes to use the money to make its summer program more like the county-run program.

Plans are to add swimming lessons, bowling lessons, billiards and other activities that wouldn't be possible without county funding.

The fees, though, will be what parents would ordinarily pay for summer day care from the school district - $2 an hour as opposed to the county's $100 non-reduced fee for the eight-week program, which comes out to less than 50 cents an hour.

"The program will be limited compared to what they're used to do," Lesko said.

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