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Parents question severing Milestones child care contract

Recreation Department to provide before- and after-school care in line with curriculum

Feb. 18, 2013

Whitefish Bay - Whitefish Bay parents expressed their shock and confusion at a School Board meeting last week after learning in early February that the School District was severing its contract with Milestones, a nonprofit organization that provided state licensed before- and after-school care to students.

For 30 years, Milestones has provided care in Cumberland and Richards elementary schools, with a contract to use school district facilities that the board did not renew for the 2013-14 school year. Instead, the Whitefish Bay Recreation and Community Education Department will begin providing in-house care for students in kindergarten through fifth grades.

Milestones will continue to offer care to Whitefish Bay children however, it will not be leasing district facilities.

The Recreation Department program will run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Fridays from Sept. 3 to June 11 at both elementary schools with fees similar to Milestones. The elementary principals worked with Carin Keland, Whitefish Bay Recreation and Community Education director, to develop the program that is an extension of the district's focus plan on education.

Parents question credibility

Nearly a dozen parents, who had nothing but positive things to say about Milestones, questioned the new program's credibility and hiring process, as well as accountability measures in place. They also expressed their shock at the news, urging better communication from the School District.

"I'm a parent of a child in Milestones and I will be staying with Milestones probably for the long haul. I think they have done outstanding work," said Whitefish Bay parent Maureen Atwell, who also questioned the Recreation Department's liability in providing before- and after-school care. "It has proved to be incredible. I object to taking something that works and works so well and has incredible support in the community and replacing it with something unknown in the community for the sake of revenue."

Director of Business Services Shawn Yde said having an in-district program would lessen the liability risk of having a third-party organization use facilities. The district also already has liability insurance.

Program was team effort

The program was not created for the sake of revenue, Yde said.

Rather, it was created to be a natural extension of the school day, Richards Principal Mark Tenorio said.

For example, the Recreation Department will get priority access to rooms in the elementary schools such as the computer lab that are not available to third-party groups. This enables the district to create a program connected to curriculum.

Tenorio and Cumberland Principal Jayne Heffron will take part of the interview process and have a say in who will provide the care.

"We are pooling our resources in order to provide the best child care that we have for our students. School safety is our top priority. That is not going to change when the bell rings," Tenorio said. "It will be a team effort. We don't have any bad feelings toward Milestone, we feel it's an opportunity for elementary school programs to grow and extend the school day so it's more connective to what's happening in the classroom."

Parents were also concerned about the program not being state licensed. The Wisconsin Department of Children & Families does not require a public school to obtain a license to operate a child care program.

Keland said they will be using YoungStar, which is the state accountability system to monitor the quality of child care.

"They provide a technical rep to help you through process of creating a technical improvement plan," Keland said. "I'm anxious to get going with that and using them as a resource to help create some job descriptions to make sure we have high quality people to run this program."

Board members support program

School Board member Cheryl Maranto said she struggled with the decision to have Recreation Department-run child care as both of her children went through Milestones.

"The tipping point for me - as one of the benefits - is the ability to connect it more with the academic piece of what the district does," she said, citing the ability for the children to use the computer labs. "If you let Milestones use the lab, then you have to open it up to every other nonschool organization that wants to use it."

There was not a need for a district-run program in the past, board member Pam Woodard said. The demographics have changed, which prompted this discussion.

"It's about extending quality education that we're already providing from one point in the day to another," she said.

Registration for the program begins April 15. Registration packets will be available at each school, the Recreation and Community Education Office, 5205 N. Lydell Ave., or at wfbschools.com.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: register for 2013-14 before and after school care

WHEN: beginning April 15

WHERE: Cumberland and Richards Schools, Recreation and Community Education Office, 5205 N. Lydell Ave., or at wfbschools.com

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