Peekskill’s elementary schools are considering a proposed extended-day program that would offer a variety of physical and other activities before and after regular school hours at no extra cost to the district.
The proposal by Orange County-based Healthy Kids Extended Day Program would offer physical and other activities, including a limited amount of homework time, at Woodside, Oakside and Hillcrest Elementary Schools. Expenses would be covered by parents and the Department of Social Services.
Steve Dwek, president of Healthy Kids, presented the proposal to the Board of Education Aug. 21. If questions involving school use fees and food are favorably answered, Healthy Kids would begin a licensing process through the state Office of Children and Family Services, which takes 4-6 weeks. If all goes well, the program could begin in October.
Healthy Kids includes recreation, arts and crafts, board games, dance, drama, homework assistance and a snack in a “family time” atmosphere, Dwek told the board. Emphasis is on physical activity, since many youngsters do not get enough, he said. The program operates under state regulations and licensing and offers a staff-child ratio of 1:10. The staff hiring process gives priority to qualified local people.
Maxine O’Connor, director of pupil personnel services, said other school districts offered “glowing praise” of the program.
Healthy Kids, headquartered in New Windsor, describes itself as the largest provider of extended-day programs in the Mid-Hudson region, servicing 28 elementary schools in Dutchess, Orange and Westchester counties. It was established in 2003. A typical day begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. and serves youngsters up to age 12.
Board President Joseph Urbanowicz said the district would have to charge a “reasonable” fee for use of school buildings because Healthy Kids is a for-profit organization. The question of whether the fee could be waived and the space provided as a service to district families was referred to the schools’ attorney.
Dwek said he was agreeable to a reasonable fee to cover district costs for lights, heat, custodial and security services. His program pays a fee to Yonkers schools but not others, he said. He asked only that the district address its concerns promptly so he could begin the licensing process as soon as possible.
Regarding the food component, the district will have to make sure Healthy Kids does not conflict with any provisions of the contract with the district’s food service provider, said Gregory Sullivan, assistant superintendent for business.
Sullivan also noted a prospective fringe benefit of Healthy Kids—a potential savings in transportation costs, since participating families would be dropping off and picking up their children directly instead of using district buses. That in turn could free up some bus seats, enabling the district to accommodate families whose transportation needs have changed since the April 1 deadline.