Leeds Elementary changing fees for before- and after-school programs

  • Northampton School Superintendent John Provost GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2021 8:47:45 AM

LEEDS — Elementary schools in Northampton will begin earlier in the morning starting this fall, and at Leeds Elementary School, there will be changes in fees for before- and after-school programs.

Last month, the School Committee unanimously voted to change the fee structure for before- and after-school programs at Leeds Elementary to accommodate the differing needs of students and families. In the past, parents would pay a flat rate of $8 a day for before- and after-school programming, while under the new structure, parents will pay $4 an hour for the sessions.

Students who qualify for a reduced lunch will pay $3 an hour, and students who qualify for free lunches can participate in before- and after-school programs for free.

In December, the School Committee voted to change the start time for elementary schools in Northampton from 8:50 a.m. to 8 a.m. starting in the fall. With the new, earlier end time for elementary schools, the after-school program will have to start earlier as well.

Leeds Elementary School is unique in the Northampton school system because it provides its own before- and after-school programs. At other elementary schools in Northampton, programming is provided by the YMCA, according to Superintendent John Provost. Leeds Elementary offers the LateBird/EarlyBird program, where students are able to arrive at school as early as 7:00 a.m. For the LateBird program, students will be able to stay as late as 5:15 p.m.

The other after-school program at Leeds Elementary is the LEAP program, which is described as an enrichment program for Leeds students. Both before- and after-school programs are staffed by Leeds school employees.

The fee rate for the LEAP program will be $65 for an eight-week session, which is the same rate as last year, according to Leeds Elementary School Principal Chris Wenz.

“The question became, what will the fee structure for the new programs be, based on the labor costs associated (with the changes)?” Provost said at the June 10 School Committee meeting. The fees needed to be consistent with the school policy for fees for students who qualify to receive lunch on a reduced or free basis.

Based on a survey sent out in May to parents, Provost said, a “fair and affordable” daily rate was identified as between $8 and $12.

“In the survey that was distributed to Leeds (parents), one of the possible effects in changing the start time is less need for before school and, conversely, more need for after school,” Provost said.

Before the pandemic, when these programs were last running, the daily rate of $8 was flat no matter how long students took part in the program each day, Provost said. Now that school is starting earlier and ending later, there is an increased need for after-school programs.

Provost suggested shifting from a flat daily rate to an hourly rate to “provide a much more rational after school fee.”

“Usage varies dramatically based on estimated needs, from less than half an hour to three hours,” Provost said.

He said it didn’t make sense to charge the same flat fee for families who are using the after-school program for different amounts of time.

Provost added that the after-school program will be “fully funded by participants,” and not subsidized with public funds.

When looking at the associated costs to pay coordinators before, Provost said, it was a total of about $42,000. And it was not for a full-time position in the past. Those funds could now be used to pay for a full-time, or close to full-time, coordinator, who would be responsible for keeping track of attendance and the rates, according to Provost.

“Rather than (paying) overtime for staff with other duties in the district, the budget we are trying to start with is at a cost-neutral point” for the new coordinator, Provost said.

Wenz said at the June 10 meeting that, before the pandemic, two English for special purposes (ESP) educators were responsible for fielding questions from parents and guardians about the after-school program during the day.

Provost said it was “not part of their normal work or paid by stipend.” The $42,000 represents the “blended rate” from before, he said, paid by parents through fees for the before- and after-school programs.

Wenz said she endorsed the new fee structure and the creation of a new coordinator position dedicated to coordinating payments and answering questions from parents and caregivers.

From 2019 to 2020, an average of 75 students participated in after-school programs at Leeds Elementary, according to School Committee member Kaia Goleman. Respondents of the survey sent out to parents included 97 families.

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