The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 21, 2010

RecCom explores after-school care for middle schoolers

The Carlisle Recreation Commission (RecCom) is considering a proposal to create an after-school program designed specifically for middle school students. The commision discussed the idea at its meeting on Monday, May 17.

The program, called Middle School Home Base, will be available to Carlisle children in fifth through eighth grade. Home Base would use the Carlisle public school facilities, although the exact details have yet to be worked out. The ultimate goal would be to house the program in the Highland Building, when and if that becomes available. Recreation Director Holly Hamilton will act as the program director. Two instructors, Jocelyne Proia and Jayne Munn, will run the program and supervise the children. Enrollment can run from five to 20 children per day.

As the proposal is currently designed, parents will have the option to pay $20 per day or $90 per week. The hours will run from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Parents will be able to set limits on the amount of freedom their children have, ranging from full supervision to allowing the children to sign out and walk to Ferns or the library. At the Home Base location, there will be a space for being social as well as a quiet space for studying.

Three parents from the Carlisle Kid’s House (CKH) attended the meeting to express their support for the proposal. CKH board member, Kelly Guarino, explained that the Home Base program will fill a gap that currently exists. Middle school students may participate in sports or after-school activities but then have unstructured time between when the practice is over and when their parents get home. Home Base will allow children to be supervised and to hang out together without making them feel like they are in daycare.

Parent Donna Cuomo explained that her son is the only fifth grader currently enrolled at the Carlisle Kids House (CKH). As a working mother, she would rather have him in some sort of after-school care than be at home alone. The proposed Home Base would allow her son to have more freedom than the CKH program without having to be home alone. Parent Martha Haddad said they understand from the children enrolled at CKH that in order to interest them, they need to provide a completely different program that includes a different space.

Guarino explained that CKH cannot fill the gap. It does not have the ability to provide a truly separate space in its current location. It does not have the ability to provide supervision at the Carlisle school. Commission member Dave Moreau asked what other towns provide for their middle school students. Guarino answered that when she talked to people in Concord, they said they have the same problem and want to know more about the Home Base proposal. There is not a good model of a program for middle school students.

Member Rick Amodei expressed concern about insurance and liability. He worried about the situation when a child signs out and does not return at the expected time. Who is responsible? What is the action plan? How do they find the missing child? According to the proposal, when a child does not return, the parents will be called as well as the location where the child was supposed to be. All contact information will be kept on site.

Another concern for the commission is the space. Historically, Hamilton has been able to use the school facilities for other recreation programs. She needs to work with the school to ensure enough space with guaranteed continuity. Amodei asked what happens during the 7th grade play (which typically uses the exercise room, a space Hamilton hopes to use, for several weeks in the late winter)? How will the space be affected by the school building project? Hamilton said that she will meet with Dave Flannery, the supervisor of building and grounds at the school, to discuss the space questions.

The commission did not vote on the proposal. They asked Hamilton to come back with more information, particularly regarding a contingency plan, license requirements and answers to space questions. ∆

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