After the first week of school in Riverside Elementary School District 96, the Pav YMCA — the official provider of after school care in District 96 — has a wide lead in the number of kids enrolled, far surpassing a new program being offered by the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation.

On Monday, Stephanie Robinson, the school age child care and family director at the Berwyn-based Pav YMCA, said that about 120 kids are already enrolled in the Pav program, which operates out of each District 96 school. 

In contrast the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation program had, as of Friday, only eight children enrolled in its program, which is located at the Riverside Presbyterian Church.

However, Ron Malchiodi, the village’s parks director, says he isn’t discouraged at the low enrollment and that he expects the number of kids in his program to grow throughout the year.

“We’ve actually talked to some people who said that they were trying out the District 96 program to see if it was any different,” said Malchiodi, “and then if not, they would move over to ours, so I think it will be kind of a fluid process.”

Robinson said that she also expects her numbers to grow as more parents sign up their children. She said that she expects to ultimately sign up the 200 or so kids her program served last year.

Last spring, the District 96 Board of Education was about to switch to the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation to run its after-school care program, but after Pav employees and some parents vociferously defended the Pav program during a couple of school board meetings, the school board voted 4 to 3 to keep the Pav program at its schools.

 The Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation is paying the Riverside Presbyterian Church $750 a month in rent to use their space. The department has ordered a 15-passenger van, which has not arrived yet, to pick up kids at their school and take them to Riverside Presbyterian. Currently the department is using a rented van to transport the kids. The Ford Transit Van costs $28,000. Malchiodi said the van also will be used for other activities of the recreation department.

Malchiodi said that the kids in his program come from every District 96 school except Hollywood School. It is also open to students who attend St. Mary’s School or other private schools.

Malchiodi said he is not surprised that his initial numbers are low.

“We were very conservative with our estimations,” Malchiodi said. “It is different and it’s offsite. People are used to the program at District 96. I’m actually optimistic that we’re going to end up with more children so to get eight right off the bat, I’m satisfied with that. I think word of mouth will build once people are exposed to the program and see the differences.”

Last spring, Malchiodi said that village-run program would be more academically focused and of higher quality than the Pav program. He said that his staff would work more closely with District 96 teachers.

The Pav program has beefed up its academically oriented activities this year, Robinson said.

“We try to balance play and physical development along with supporting the kids academically,” Robinson said. “We’re implementing a lot of new games and things throughout the course of the year.”

The Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation program stays open until 6:30 p.m. while the Pav YMCA program shuts down at 6 p.m.

Malchiodi said he is not especially concerned that low enrollment could result in his department losing money on the program.

“If operating with a lower number of children means that the program is not generating revenue, we’re fine with that, because at the end of the day we’re a service-based entity. So providing a higher quality service is really our goal,” Malchiodi said. “Of course we want to be able to cover all of our bills, but the entire department generates revenue, so we’re able to subsidize other programs.”

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