An after-school special |

An after-school special

City, school district explore program partnership

Melinda Mawdsley

Ed Veronda, a volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, reads to Brianna Flores on Friday. Steamboat Springs officials say the Craig organization provides an example of what can be done locally to address after-school program needs.

Inadequate facilities have prompted the city to look at partnering with the Steamboat Springs School District to improve after-school programs for area children.

A new Soda Creek Elementary School and renovated Strawberry Park Elementary School have been identified as future homes for such programs, and both would likely provide better accommodations than the “Igloo,” an aging facility that serves as the city’s primary indoor after-school building.

At Monday’s Steamboat Springs School Board meeting, board members Jeff Troeger and Pat Gleason will provide an update on the collaboration discussions between the city and the district. On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council will discuss those efforts at its meeting.

And there is reason for the urgency – if the city wants to partner with the school district, after-school program offices and storage spaces must be incorporated into the existing designs for construction at both schools.

The city would pay for the additions, which could cost about $200,000.

“We will not do the plans without the money,” Steamboat Springs Superintendent Donna Howell said.

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After-school needs

City Council President Ken Brenner said after-school programs are one of the most important needs in Steamboat Springs, where an estimated 70 percent of households have two income earners.

“Steamboat Springs has one of the highest percentages of (dual-income households) in the country,” Brenner said. “The new City Council is more aware of the issues of working families and more willing to put money toward issues working families are confronted by. After-school and teen programs are right up there.”

The elementary schools have been identified as future sites for after-school programs because elementary-aged children are the primary users of the city’s programs. They also would be convenient locations because they would eliminate the need to transport children from school to a different facility, Brenner said.

The school district doesn’t offer any after-school programs and hasn’t for nearly a decade, Brenner added.

Howell has said the school district would like to offer something, but it doesn’t have the facilities or space – at least not yet.

“I said, ‘OK, let’s find some space. If we can run the programming, we have the staff and the finances. You have the facilities. We should be able to work out a deal,'” Brenner said. “We still have to work out the rest of the details. We have a preliminary agreement that would allow the city to offer an expanded after-school program at the Strawberry Park location following the reconstruction.”

The city’s current program is run through its Parks and Recreation Department. The children are picked up from school in a white activity bus that recreation supervisor Susan Petersen affectionately calls the “white whale.”

The children participate in activities indoors at the Igloo and Olympian Hall and outdoors.

Heather King likes it that way.

King, who said she left Denver to raise her daughter Senceray in a small town that cared about and for its children, doesn’t want the after-school program held in school buildings.

“It would be really sad if anything happened to this program,” King said. “They do so much. It cuts off a lot of what they do now if they end up going into the schools.”

One of Senceray’s favorite activities is her Tuesday cooking class in which children spend one month learning how to prepare food from a different country. The class ends with a trip to a local restaurant, which is easily accessible from the Igloo’s downtown location off Howelsen Parkway.

“If they were at one of the schools, they couldn’t do that : maybe at Soda Creek, but not at Strawberry Park,” King said.

Howell said her top priority is “accommodating the needs of our parents.”

The city’s after-school programs couldn’t be in the elementary schools until construction is finished, meaning the transition, if it happens, is at least a year away. But Brenner said he doesn’t envision the schools being the permanent location for the city’s after-school programs.

“We need space for a central location,” he said.

Model of success

Brenner said there is a model of success in Northwest Colorado – the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

The facility is 13,000 square feet and is used by children, teens and a host of community organizations.

The Steamboat Springs City Council is set to vote Tuesday on a proposed community center that would be 8,400 square feet. But there have been disagreements among user groups about who should use the potential facility. After-school programs have not been part of the discussion.

With the support of community members and businesses and corporations, the Boys & Girls Club, which is a national organization, charges its members only $10 a year.

Executive director Jonathan Godes said the Boys & Girls Club tried after-school programs in Moffat County schools with limited success. Program participation increased from about 25 children a day when it was held in school to about 100 a day once the club’s permanent facility was built.

The Craig club has 625 members, which is about 25 percent of the school district’s enrolled students.

“It is a drop-in center, so the pressure is on the staff and leadership to make programs engaging enough to make the members want to come,” Godes said.

He pointed to several programs that have been successful, including Smart Moves, a drug, alcohol and dangerous behavior prevention program, and the Torch Club for 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds who want to become peer leaders.

The Boys & Girls Club offers recreational opportunities and educational opportunities, including an optional Power Hour in which staff helps students with homework and other problems.

“Everything is a choice,” Godes said.

The Boys & Girls Club offers snacks and a full dinner at 5 p.m.

“About 85 percent of our members take part in that,” Godes said. “We have a lot of (children of) single moms or mom is working and dad is working nights. Thirty percent of our members have parents in Steamboat.”

On Thursday, 115 children were at the Boys & Girls Club between 3 and 7 p.m.

“If all we do is have fun and build those positive relationships through fun, that’s great,” Godes said.

– To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail