After-school programming options have been slim for working parents in Homer, and earlier release times for elementary students, which went into effect this fall, have only accentuated parents' needs for consistent after-school care. Local schools are heeding parents' calls and are working to re-instate a Boys and Girls club. But there’s still logistics to be figured out.
Sarah Richardson has two kids. Her five-year-old is at Paul Banks Elementary and her eight-year-old is at West Homer Elementary. This year, she’s put a lot of mileage on her car picking them up.
“I do have to adjust my lunch, adjust what I'm doing, change everything around so I can be there at that 2:20 release for Paul Banks and then way over to West Homer for their 2:40 release and then back to after school programs," she said
Both Richardson and her husband have full time jobs.
“We're not free till five o'clock and having the kids get out at 2:20 and having the change in buses, it really put a squeeze on us," she said.
She’s not alone. When elementary schools changed their schedule to let kids out earlier in the day, it made things difficult for lots of parents. Eric Pederson, the principal at Paul Banks Elementary helped conduct a survey to see if parents would be interested in a Boys and Girls club. The answer was a resounding yes.
“We do have a lot of afterschool programs this year also that are helping but it's not totally filling the need,” he said. “It's something the community really wants. It's something we did a lot of research on last year, it's something the community needs.”
Elementary schools are still figuring out exactly what the program might look like here but Pederson says it will consistent of educational and creative activities and will likely run five days a week until 5 or 6 p.m. every day. The community used to have a Boys and Girls Club years ago at the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex but Pederson said it dissolved over funding difficulties. How the school would finance a new club is also a concern for reinstating it.
Mike Illg, Homer’s community recreation manager and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District board member said, “As a community, we really need to rally around them, meaning helping them with financial support and fundraising, because it's such a crucial program.”
He said figuring out the location is also complicated.
“It's not as simple as just putting it in a local school," he said. "You know there are some physical barrier constraints. We're not interested in kicking teachers out of the classroom after school but we want to find a way to make it work for everyone.”
The elementary schools also want to make sure that parents don’t have to shuffle their kids to another school in the middle of the day for the club. Elementary school principals met with a Boys and Girls Club official earlier this week and they are hoping to make the program available next year. The club would be the ninth one on the peninsula.