Survey to gauge interest in Boys and Girls Club at Paul Banks
February 9th | Carey Restino
Several months ago, parents in the Homer area were told that next year, school start and stop times were changing. While middle and high school students would get an extra half-hour of sleep in the morning, Homer's elementary school students would start school earlier next fall in an effort to stagger the school bus pick-ups and save money.
But one big concern raised by the school time shuffle was what working parents would do when students were released at 2:20 to 2:30 in the afternoon and older siblings were still in school. Many parents can't leave work that early, and few low-cost after-school daycare options exist in the community, many said.
Thus sprang an effort, lead in part by area principals, to revisit the idea of a Boys and Girls Club in Homer. While Homer had a club in the past, it never received the community support it needed to thrive. The latest idea for a club, however, is to have it housed in an area school. Paul Banks Elementary School Principal Eric Pederson said they decided to offer a survey so the community could weigh in on whether such a program would be helpful.
The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/RLVVKCP or through a link on Paul Banks Elementary School's homepage.
"This is just a preliminary survey to see if there's a need for a Boys and Girls Club," Pederson said. "A lot of parents have asked about it and are concerned about the early release next year."
Pederson said he and other principals are examining a popular program in Nikiski at North Star Elementary, which uses the school after hours for students from throughout the area. The principal at that facility said it was a good partnership, Pederson said, and his staff is exploring ways they could share the space.
Pederson said the idea right now is to offer a program for elementary-school-aged students from southern Kenai Peninsula schools. Typically, the clubs charge an annual fee such as $50 for students to attend, and depend on community support, not tuition, for their operation.
The biggest concern right now for the elementary school is how to keep its many wonderful after-school programs organized by the school's parent teacher association.
"We have such a great PTA, and they do a lot of after school activities, from sign language to a Lego club to a cooking class in the kitchen," he said. "We really don't want to trump that with the Boys and Girls Club."
But Pederson said he and staff are exploring ways the club might be able to work together with after-school activity organizers for the school.
"We may have to get really creative," he said.
If the survey showed significant community support for such a program and the plan went forward, the Boys and Girls Club would need space in the school and funding for its staff and materials, he said. While space is at a premium at Paul Banks, staff would find a way to make room for the program, he said.
"If families need this, my staff is willing to work with the Boys and Girls Club," he said. "They understand the big picture and where we are as a state and a nation. We need to pull together. There's not a person in our staff that doesn't put kids first."
The first step, however, is to see what kind of community response the survey gets, he said.
"Just please take the three seconds to take the survey," he said. "It's going to be a lot of work to put it together, so if people say there's no need, that's important to know. Even if you are not going to use it, that's great data to have."