SOUTHBOROUGH – The Public Schools of Southborough will now partner with the Southborough Extended Day Program’s (SEDP) board on an extended day program.
This decision, which was approved by the Southborough School Committee on Wednesday night, comes after months of discussion of the future of extended day services in Southborough.
The nonprofit organization SEDP was formed by parents and currently serves Southborough students.
“We’re excited and optimistic about this partnership that [Superintendent Greg Martineau] has presented here,” SEDP Board President Katie Karmelek said.
According to Martineau, the district will partner with SEDP on programming and staffing. Finances will be brought under the district’s responsibility.
He said the details of this agreement haven’t been worked out. But the next step was to formalize the partnership.
“It goes without saying it’s been a long and circuitous path to get us here,” Karmelek said. “However, the steps taken were necessary to ensure that together we have formulated what we feel is the optimal program for everyone involved — that includes the community, the kids and the SEDP staff.”
Changes follow RFP process last year
SEDP’s contract was slated to end in August. The district initially planned to recommend a new provider to the School Committee.
However, it later rejected all of the requests for proposals and extended SEDP’s contract for an extra year.
The district then began studying the feasibility of taking on an in-house before and after school program.
Staff presented the results of that study to the School Committee in December and recommended that the district start a program for the 2022-2023 school year.
Martineau said one of the benefits of absorbing SEDP was that the program would be able to access the district’s resources, expertise and professional development.
During that December meeting, some residents expressed concerns, including that they felt that feedback from people who use the program was ignored.
The School Committee did not take any action on the recommendation at that time.
“I think, since that meeting, what time has allowed us to really think about was that we were looking at it as an ‘either or’ decision, and it’s really not an ‘either or’ decision,” Martineau said.
The district shifted the way it was approaching the topic and had “many” conversations with Karmelek about forming a partnership with SEDP.
He said they came to the conclusion that it was “very important” for the community to have input and feedback into the program.
District makes adjustments following December meeting
In December, the district proposed having a parent advisory role relative to the program. That will now be shifted to a formal advisory role shared with SEDP.
Martineau said that instead of looking at it as an “either or” decision, the district looked at it in a different way.
“Partnering with Southborough Extended Day Program really speaks to the longstanding commitment that it has had to the Southborough community and families, and it also brings on board the expertise and learning it has done over those many, many years,” Martineau said.
The School Committee voiced their support for the partnership.
Chair Roger Challen said it will be able to focus more resources and expand the program for the participating families and children while also providing continuity and a smooth transition.
“I do think that what their team and their group can provide, married with our district services and the educators that we have and the staff that we have, is going to be a positive thing,” Kamali O’Meally said. “I’m happy to hear that recommendation.”
School Committee member Kim Tolander also noted that there is a “small segment” of students and families that don’t feel welcome in the program, which she said was a resource issue.
“I’m very excited that we can partner with the district now and have that opportunity now,” Tolander said.
She asked for a “strong commitment” that this program would be for all students.
SEDP will remain as nonprofit
Registration for the new program will launch at the end of February.
The School Committee approved the rates for Fiscal Year 2023, which Martineau said will hold to the current 2021-2022 fees.
The monthly rates for before school services range from $46 for one day to $175 for five days. For after school time, the monthly rates range between $128 for one day to $427 for five days.
The district said summer programming will be available for families.
SEDP will support the district in hiring for the program and will remain as a community nonprofit that will oversee the programming.
Staff would be district employees and report to Assistant Superintendent of Operations Keith Lavoie.
Resident notes Recreation Department programs
The district has talked about the possibility of offering enrichment opportunities.
Martineau said the district’s first priority is to continue current programs and then look at what enrichment opportunities could be provided. So, those would not be launched immediately.
Resident Kristin LaVault expressed concern that such opportunities would be competition with the Recreation Department’s Recreation After School Program.
“Recreation has always had a very good relationship with SEDP, and I wouldn’t want to see that become a competition, which would be kind of weird – it would be like the town competing with the town,” LaVault said.
She suggested that, if there were enrichment opportunities, staff with the new extended day program should run them through the recreation program.