BOURBONNAIS — The Bourbonnais Elementary School Board on Tuesday authorized District 53 to enter into an agreement with the Kankakee Area YMCA to provide before- and after-school childcare next fall.
Both the YMCA and Bourbonnais Township Park District currently provide services in the district. However, the BTPD will not be providing childcare in schools next year due to staffing issues.
Families that want to utilize BTPD childcare will need to take their children to the Recreation Station and provide their own transportation, BTPD Executive Director Ed Piatt has said.
Superintendent Adam Ehrman said the district asked the YMCA about providing additional in-school services when it was informed that the future of the BTPD program was uncertain.
The BTPD’s program historically has been the cheapest option, especially for school employees who can use the service at a discount.
BTPD officials said they were exploring ways to keep the in-school program running, but they could not promise they would be able to provide the service next year.
“There was some confusion back and forth on that end,” Ehrman said. “There wasn’t any confusion on our end. We know what we heard, and so we started looking for other options, particularly because we knew the cost increase was going to be a little traumatic for some of our employees for sure.”
The YMCA was also asked and agreed to provide a discount for school staff who use the services for their own children. They will be able to use a punch-card system and pay the same rate as someone with a YMCA membership, getting roughly a 25% discount.
Ehrman said there has not been a formal agreement between the district and either organization in the past.
The legal counsels for the district and YMCA are now in the process of working out a memorandum of understanding, he said.
“There was really no paperwork; there just wasn’t anything. It was just they’ve always been here,” he said. “And I understand that. I mean, years and years ago that was probably how it worked.”
He said he had hoped to bring the finalized MOU to the board Tuesday night for approval, but some items need to be cleaned up first, such as district control of facilities and equipment, terms for renewal or cancellation of the agreement, liability and the number of sites that will be used.
In addition to the discount for school employees that YMCA officials previously agreed to, Ehrman said they have also agreed to count the morning and afternoon hours as one punch instead of two for school employees.
They will give this system a try until around January and then reassess how it is working, he said.
“Logistically they don’t know how they’re going to keep track of all of that, but in essence that would cut the cost in half,” he said.
Some employees he talked with said that two punches a day would be a “dramatic cost increase,” he said.
“That discounted rate is a game changer for some of our employees,” Ehrman said. “I don’t know if it’s going to last forever, but I know that for at least six months, it’s going to be in place and that’s going to hopefully be a benefit for some of our employees.”
About 60 to 70 families currently use the BTPD program at Shabbona Elementary, and 70 to 75 families use the YMCA program at Shepard and Liberty schools.
The YMCA would be able to staff as many as four of the district’s five schools, senior program director Penny Greenlee said at a previous board meeting.
Ehrman said he expects the YMCA would staff at least three sites, with Shepard and Shabonna being treated as one site, allowing them to reduce staffing costs and provide the additional discount.
“I’m excited to continue our relationship with the YMCA,” Ehrman said. “Obviously, it’s a historic partnership. It doesn’t mean it’s a forever partnership, either; we can always reassess things. But I’m proud of the work that we were able to achieve, even though it was not our problem to deal with.”
Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.
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