It appears that the Riverside Parks and Recreation Department will take over the before- and after-school care program in Riverside Elementary School District 96 next year.

After Ron Malchiodi, the director of the Riverside Parks and Recreation Department, gave a presentation to the District 96 school board last week at a meeting of the board’s education committee, board members seemed inclined to replace its current before and after care provider, Berwyn-based Pav YMCA.

“To me this is a no-brainer,” board member Mike O’Brien said. “The only risk is that we never had parks and rec before. I see this vendor offering a better product.”

Board members Juliet Boyd and Randy Brockway also expressed support for switching to Riverside Parks and Recreation department to manage the program.

“The Riverside rec department has a good reputation around town,” Brockway said.

The board could act as soon as March 17 to formally vote to have Riverside Parks and Recreation run the before- and after-school program. 

In his presentation to the board, Malchiodi said his department would put a greater stress on academics in the after-school program than what currently exists.

“I feel we have the opportunity to improve the after-school program,” Malchiodi said. “We will structure the program to the individual. We will be much more active and participatory in the supervision of the program.” 

Malchiodi said that under parks and rec the program would move beyond babysitting and would place a greater focus on academics. He said the department would work closely with the district to offer more than just homework help.

“We would actually elicit input from the school itself,” Malchiodi said. “So if there are certain things that they need to focus within their curriculum or for the Common Core testing, things of that nature, we’re happy to incorporate those principles, or at least stress those during our program.”

But it won’t all be academics under parks and rec. 

“We want the kids to have fun, we want them to blow off steam after sitting in a classroom all day, but any way in which we can work in education or learning we’d like to do so,” Malchiodi said.

Malchiodi said his department already has “mindbender” activities that combine physical activity and fun with a learning component such as problem solving.

“It’s still physical activity, but it has an intellectual aspect to it,” Malchiodi said.

Malchiodi said he expected fees, which are currently $50 for 10 days in the before-school program and $125 for 10 days in the after-school program, to remain the same.

“I believe we can operate where the price points are now,” Malchiodi said.

Families of District 96 students who live in towns other than Riverside would pay the same price as Riverside residents.

Malchiodi said YMCA staff would have an opportunity to interview for jobs when Riverside Parks and Recreation takes over the program.

“If they’re quality instructors and they go through our training and go through our screening, we’d like to keep them on,” Malchiodi said. “That would be our first mission. If there are quality instructors there now that the kids like, that the parents like, we have no desire to kind of clean house. We’d like to retain as much staff as possible and then just supplement with new hires.”

Malchiodi also said that existing Riverside Parks and Recreation staff includes college students studying to become teachers; they could also work in the program and help increase the academic focus of the program. 

Malchiodi said that he would aim for a 10-to-1 student/staff ratio.

For the 2014-15 school year, District 96 hired Riverside Parks and Recreation to run a supplementary after-school program at L.J. Hauser Junior High School for the early release time on Mondays. Only two students signed up for that program.

Riverside Parks and Recreation has experience taking over for Pav YMCA. Until 2011, the Pav YMCA ran Riverside’s summer day camp program. Reviews for the day camp since Riverside Parks and Recreation took over have been generally positive.