School’s Out Revenues Growing

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Thursday November 14, 2013

At the November 6 school board meeting, School’s Out Program Coordinator Leigh Lamphere and Business Manager John Stewart were on hand to give an update on the financial status of the School’s Out program. According to the report, FY ’13 showed a loss of $10,726 for a total fund balance of $127,797. However, the FY ’14 projection, split into three parts: K-5 program, Tuttle after-school program, and the summer program, paints a different picture. It is anticipated that the program will net about $20,000 in revenue over expenses this year.

Parents who have previously had to camp out overnight to secure spots for their child to gain entry into this coveted program have reason to rejoice. For the first time in several years there isn’t a wait-list at Chamberlin or Orchard Schools, and the list at Central is holding at only 15! Currently, both Orchard and Rick Marcotte Central School programs are operating at the maximum capacity of 75 children per day with 7 staff members. Chamberlin is operating with 67 students per day, supervised by 6 staff members, which results in a higher adult to child ratio. 

Word of mouth on the merits of the School’s Out Program have been enough to assure the elementary program is at capacity- with waiting lists, year after year. But this is not yet the case at the middle school level, in part due to the fact that some children begin staying home alone in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. The current enrollment at Tuttle Middle School is 18 students, which is up from the 10 students who were enrolled last year. When asked about marketing techniques by Board member Julie Beatty, Lamphere mentioned distribution of fliers, brochures, posts to Twitter and Facebook and tailoring the middle school program to align more closely to the needs of older kids. Some ideas include drop-in services and clubs or the option of attending the program on Tuesdays and Thursdays between drama and track practice, for example.

The School’s Out summer program saw a significant increase in revenue due to increased enrollment. This resulted in an increase of $5,580 in operating costs, but also an increase of $14,238 in revenue over the original projection. The most popular program has been TREKs (travel recreation experience and knowledge) adventure based and interest camps. Lamphere said that this past summer he had the opportunity to lead a survival camp at the Waterbury Reservoir. The students caught fish, researched how to build shelter, learned survival skills, read “Lost on a Mountain in Maine,” and wrote journal enties about their experience. Spa and wellness camps and paddle boarding were offered as well. 

Exploring ways the program can be self sufficient by FY 2015 include tuition increases, staff reductions, cancellation of TREKs that do not reach capacity and transportation consolidation. Lamphere is looking into options to pool services, perhaps with other area programs. He is also working with the district business office to find a method for parents to pay for programs online with a credit card. According to Lamphere, South Burlington’s program is on the lower end of the tuition scale compared to other communities in Chittenden County, which contributes to its popularity. 

If South Burlington’s program saw a tuition increase, it would be coupled with the creation of scholarships. In addition, all the participating schools are STAR (step ahead recognition system) certified which means the schools can accept subsidies and get higher reimbursement on the child care financial assistance fee scale. The more stars a program has, is related to  a wide range of practices that support children, families, and professionals. If a parent/guardian uses a provider that is accredited or has 3, 4, or 5 stars and he/she meets the income guidelines, they may qualify for a low income child and dependent care tax credit on their state income tax.

Central School, with 3 stars,  currently has the highest number of stars in this certification system. Chamberlin and Orchard Schools have 2 stars each, and Tuttle, being the newest school’s out program site has 1 star. Lamphere has set a goal to achieve  three stars for each school. “Our goal is to create a quality program while keeping the cost low” Lamphere said. 

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent