Southborough School Committee delays decision on extended day program

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SEDP operates an after-school program at Finn Elementary School. Photo/Laura Hayes
SEDP operates an after-school program at Finn Elementary School.
(Photo/Laura Hayes)

SOUTHBOROUGH – The Public Schools of Southborough is recommending that the district start its own extended day program next school year.

However, the Southborough School Committee did not take action on Superintendent Gregory Martineau’s recommendation at a meeting on Dec. 8 and expressed interest in holding a special meeting in the coming weeks to make a decision.

A nonprofit organization, the Southborough Extended Day Program (SEDP), currently serves Southborough families. 

“We pride ourselves on running a fun, warm, and safe environment for these kids, and we do everything we can to maintain that for the community,” SEDP board president Katie Karmelek said at this recent Dec. 8 meeting.

SEDP would support district program

SEDP’s contract was slated to end in August. The district extended it for an extra year though after it rejected proposals from providers, and it expressed interest in taking on the program itself.

Karmelek said that, if the district decides to move the program in house, SEDP will support it. 

However, she said their “ideal goal” is for SEDP to be an independent program and operate as it has for decades. 

“If the recommendation and decision is to bring it in house, we will do what we can to work with the school and to support that decision. But it’s important to know, and I think everybody here needs to know, that the program that we know here today will cease to exist indefinitely,” said Karmelek. 

Proposed program

The new program would continue at Neary, Finn and Woodward Schools with the same schedule, according to Martineau.

It would offer programming during school vacations, most state and federal holidays, professional development and most early release days as well as over the summer.

Martineau said one of the greatest benefits of absorbing the program was that it would extend its access to district resources, expertise and professional development.

There would be no change in fees from this year to next. If rates were to increase, such a change would have to be approved by the School Committee.

Martineau said it was recommended that any profits (which are projected to be between $90,000 to $250,000) would be used for supplies, to upgrade spaces and to maintain a three-month reserve.

The district would form an advisory committee to oversee a new extended day program.

If Southborough took this task on, Martineau said it would “immediately” begin searching for a director. Martineau said current SEDP staff would be a hiring priority.

If the School Committee does not opt for the program to be in house, the district will have to start the RFP process once again.

Residents’ concerns

Several residents expressed a variety of concerns, ranging from what they called a profit margin to claiming feedback from people who use the program was ignored. 

“As a parent in the district of two children, as a former alumni of the school district myself, and as a former employee of SEDP, the value of the program as it is today is wonderful for the families, and I just would ask the School Committee to really look at what the true difference and benefit of bringing it in house would be,” said Christine Rehlander, who is on SEDP’s board. “I didn’t really see anything tonight that would make me jump out of my chair to make this change.”

School Committee member Jennifer Primack said there was “a lot of emotion in the community” about SEDP and its meaning for families.

“I think we’re — all of us here — have heard those sentiments from families. We’ve heard the phrase ‘If it’s not broken, why fix it?’” Primack said.

She asked what Martineau’s response would be.

Martineau said SEDP has served the community well and the district can continue having parents in a key role in extended day in an advisory role.

Caring for kids is their area of expertise, he said.

“Every day parents entrust their children with us, and I think Southborough Public Schools is an exceptional school system,” he continued. “[We’re] not perfect, but we do a great job. And I think we can do an exceptional job with the extended day program and truly use our resources to provide students what they need in the program.”

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