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by Anne Berleant
The Blue Hill School Board quickly granted preliminary approval for a Down East YMCA after-school program at its October 10 meeting after moving the item to the top of its agenda. Peter Farragher, executive director of the Y, had first presented the board with the proposal at its September meeting.
After the unanimous vote in favor of the program, Principal Della Martin said that teachers expressed “a great deal of concern” over the limited space available at the school, given sports practice in the gym, drama rehearsals in the cafeteria, and some teachers working late in classrooms. In September, Farragher had suggested using classrooms as an alternative space, when needed.
Teachers also expressed a “commitment to the Peninsula Metamorphic Arts and Learning program,” Martin reported. “They know that program is a quality program and the cost isn’t that much different.”
“There’s a huge need out there,” parent and community member Kelley Columber told the board, but cost is an issue she hears from many parents. “No matter the program, are there options for tuition assistance?”
The YMCA program will charge $17 per day, with subsidies from state funds or through the YMCA’s annual appeal of up to fifty percent, based on family income.
“We try to make sure that we don’t turn people away because they don’t have the ability to pay. That’s our mission,” said Farragher in a follow-up phone call.
The PMAL after school program costs $15 per day, or $18 if a child attends less than three days per week, with a siblings discount. PMAL sometimes provides a scholarship to cover half the tuition, said PMAL president Amy Grant. Serving kindergarteners through fifth-graders, the PMAL after school program runs Monday through Thursday, ending at 5:15 p.m.
Grant presented information on PMAL to the board after its vote in favor of the YMCA proposal. First started in 2009, PMAL is a private, for-profit business “with a social mission,” Grant said. It provides academic support consistent with BHCS programming, healthy snacks, outdoor “enrichment activities” and art.
“Some come for enrichment, some for daycare, but most come for both,” Grant said.
Students are dropped off by the BHCS bus, with “most kids already on the bus schedule,” Grant said. On average, 12 children attend each day.
The YMCA program will run Monday through Friday, 2:30 to 6 p.m., and serve kindergarteners through sixth-graders. It needs seven to eight students to be viable, Farragher said, with a limit of 26. “If the need is greater, we’ll figure out how to bring it up to the next level.” The program will provide a snack, homework help, and activities, Farragher said. Martin pointed out that the program will also be an option for students involved in after school sports, which end around 3:30 p.m.
Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said he thought both programs can thrive. “I see the great opportunity in this town for a variety of after school programs.”
Over 230 students attend Blue Hill Consolidated School, which runs from kindergarten through eighth grade.