Parents Voice Concern Over Possible BASE Transition
At a Thursday night District 102 School Board meeting, parents raised concerns over the possible transition of the BASE after-school program into the hands of the La Grange Park District.
BASE, which stands for Before and After School Experience, allows parents to drop off kids early for school, or pick them up later to accommodate work schedules. Students get help with homework, a healthy snack and an opportunity to socialize after school.
According to District 102 officials, the reason for the proposed transition is largely due to insurance liability and to training. The district would need to place a certified employee in the role currently filled by BASE Program Director Leanna Hartung, and would need to more regularly train employees. Both problems could be solved, said Lauri Calabrese, assistant superintendent for finance, by having current BASE staff become park district employees.
Transition Better for All
The school district presented the plan as a win-win for all involved. Kids would have access to more activities, a wider variety of healthy food options, increased attention to safety and security and services could possibly extend to school holidays and breaks.
Parents would get new payment options, more regularly trained staff, online resources and increased hours—beginning a half hour earlier at 6:30 a.m. and ending a half hour later at 6:30 p.m.
Why Change What's Working?
Parents were skeptical of any changes to the BASE program, they said, because the current program was working just fine. They worried that fees would increase, the program would eventually be moved off school grounds and communication would break down between BASE staff, parents and the park district.
Kathleen Durkin, who said she moved to La Grange from Elmhurst in 2010, said she was glad to find out the BASE program was separate from the park district. When her children's after-school program was handed over to the park district in Elmhurst, she said the program suffered. Durkin said she worried the program would loose the payment flexibility—where parents only need to pay when they use the program, as opposed to paying by semester—which she said eventually happened in Elmhurst.
A Service to the Community
La Grange Park District President Mary Ellen Penicook tried to soothe parents' concerns and said the park district is committed to keeping the program largely the same.
"We're doing this as a service to the community," Penicook said.
The park district had no intention of making changes to the program, other to improve it, she said. All staff would make the transition to become park district employees and the program would remain on school grounds, but would offer greater assistance to the program's director.
Board: Discussion Just Beginning
The District 102 board had not made any decisions and was just beginning the discussion, board member Dawn Aubert reminded parents. Board President David May aaded that the district could look into requiring the program continue to stay on campus in the park district contract.
The Park District of La Grange will also be discussing the program at their next meeting on Nov. 14. If both districts approve the program, the transition would take place over winter break to provide a smooth transition for kids and staff members when they return in 2012, they said.
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