After exploring a shift to YMCA, Shawnee Mission sticking with Johnson County Park & Rec at 5 of 6 area schools for after-care program

Briarwood Elementary will have before- and after-care programs provided by Johnson County Park and Recreation District next year.
Briarwood Elementary will have before- and after-care programs provided by Johnson County Park and Recreation District next year.

Five area Shawnee Mission schools will continue to have before- and after-school care programs operated by Johnson County Park and Recreation District next school year despite earlier plans to switch to services provided by the YMCA.

The district alerted six elementaries — Briarwood, Broken Arrow, Merriam Park, Rising Star, Shawanoe and Trailwood — about its plan to shift the programming at those schools from the current JCPRD operations to the YMCA’s Y Club for 2017-18. The impetus for the change was tied to the expansion of the district’s pre-kindergarten programs, said assistant superintendent for early childhood education Leigh Anne Neal. With new pre-k programs going in at area schools, the district was interested in working with the before- and after-care program providers on the development of a new half-day program that would be available to families who had children in the pre-k classes, thus giving them access to a full day of child care.

Both JCPRD and the YMCA operate before- and after-care programs in Shawnee Mission schools, but under state law, each school building can have only one program provider. Because the district had been in talks with the YMCA about the development of the supplemental half-day program, it decided to shift operations at some of the schools with JCPRD programs over to the Y Club. The announcement provoked some push back from parents at those schools, who said they were very satisfied with the JCPRD programs, and didn’t want to see a shift. Some parents say the didn’t learn about the potential move until JCPRD put its fall registration at the schools on hold last week.

Consequently, the district reached out to JCPRD to discuss the potential for that agency to develop a supplemental half-day program as well.

“They said they are interested in developing a half-day program,” Neal said. “So for next year, we’ll be maintaining JCPRD at five of the six buildings.”

Only Merriam Park, where the district intends to operate programming funded in part by a grant that will support the YMCA’s work there, will shift from JCPRD to the YMCA.

Neal said the main goal of the deliberations in the matter was to expand access to care for families.

“It can be difficult for a parent to tell an employer that they need to leave work every day at 11 to pick up a child and take them to another daycare,” Neal said. “We want to make it easy for parents to access quality programs for their kids.”