TYC summer enrollment drops
Heidi Zemach | For The LOG
Case Estes, Emily Unrein, Clay Petersen, James Unrein and Zander Jones hold an informal Olympic tournament at the foosball table.
Enrollment at the Seward Parks and Recreation Department’s summer program at TYC has dropped to about half the level of children that it served last year. The main difference between this year and last are its prices, which increased due to cuts in the SPRD budget. Nevertheless, a special multi-tiered pricing system was implemented prior to the start of the summer season, linked to parents’ income and whether their child was enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, received state or federal assistance, and the number of children attending. Those factors, apparently, did not make a big enough difference.
“Three years ago we had a wait list that maxed out at 50 kids, and I would be calling people in the morning if a kid didn’t show up” said TYC Director Josie Ronne. But this summer no parent got a call to let them know a space had opened for their child.
“Then last year it was we didn’t have to turn anybody away. There were no wait lists but it was always full. We had from 40-50 kids for the entire summer, including the Adventure Camp for the older kids. Now we are averaging 25-30 kids.”
The staff has not crunched all of the numbers yet, but they have seen enough to note the trend, and they believe that it will remain this way through Aug. 21, when school begins. The month of May had the lowest consistent enrollment, with only 22 children attending by the end of of the month. There were several days in June when there were only 18-20 children participating. The highest number they’ve had was 33.
“I just feel like once the family saw the regular rate (increase), several families felt that they couldn’t afford it, and didn’t bother to look further, or chose not to go the extra step,” Ronne said.
Of those families with children who are attending, many of them qualify for either tier one or tier two rates, which are the same, or lower than last year as their families receive some form of assistance. Four of the children’s fees are reimbursed by the state (at the reduced tier rate) under the state’s work assistance program, which also is a greater number than in previous years.
As a result of the cuts and reduced enrollment, TYC staff was reduced by one and a half positions. Of of the regular four staff positions, one is a trainee position. They are using only one or two buses to transport the children to their activities this summer, and they reduced the number of out of town field trips to two, whereas last summer there were six field trips. Also, rather than separating the children into two or three different groups to better manage them, this summer there are fewer groups, and larger combined groups, allowing them to play the bigger team games like kick ball, which is a plus Ronne said. Also, children of all ages are spending more time together, which they enjoy, but sometimes the older children would prefer more time to themselves.
This week the focus was on the World Olympics, featuring the TYC 2012 Olympics. Children painted their faces with the flags or colors of the country they had chosen, and played games and other activities for which they won points for their country, including a foosball tournament. This summer TYC started running a greenhouse where they have raised some nice-sized cucumbers, strawberries, and plenty of lettuce to eat.
Ronne said her wish is for all Seward’s families to have a great, affordable place to send children, whether TYC, or elsewhere.
SPRD has been tasked with bringing their statistics and findings to city council this fall.
“At this point, all indicators seem to be pointing to our SPRD recommendation to the city manager to roll-back prices to the 2011 year levels when we enjoyed serving about twice as many kids each week. However, more public input and council discussion will likely be involved before that is finally determined,” said Karin Sturdy, the parks and recreation director.