In what is being described as a pilot project, the Riverside Department of Parks and Recreation is taking over the before- and after-school care program at Central School for the 2017-18 school year.

Riverside Parks and Rec will replace the Berwyn-based Pav YMCA in operating the school’s program. However, Pav YMCA will continue to provide before- and after-school care programs at the other three District 96 elementary schools.

School officials are eager to work with Riverside Parks and Rec.

“I think the community partnership makes sense,” said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye. “Certainly, our goal was not to undo the work that Pav was doing, but it seems fair to create an opportunity for the eager community partner.”

Riverside Parks and Rec has long wanted to run the before- and after-care programs in District 96 schools. Two years ago, the District 96 Board of Education was all set to hire Riverside Parks and Rec to run the programs at all its schools. But, after supporters of the Pav YMCA program spoke out at board meetings, a few board members changed their minds and the board voted 4 to 3 to keep Pav as its sole provider of the programs. 

In response, Riverside Parks and Rec started its own after-care program, but it served only a handful of students in 2015-16. Last year, it wanted to offer the same program but could not because not so few students signed up.

Meanwhile, Riverside Parks and Rec continued to cultivate a partnership with District 96. This spring the department offered a few specialized after-school programs, such as basketball, chess, and a STEM program at Central and Ames schools.

Ron Malchiodi, the director of the Riverside Parks and Recreation Department, said that the pilot program at Central will allow his department to show the school community what it can do. He said that his program will be a little different than the Pav program.

“Our emphasis is going to be on academic assistance and our structure will be a little different,” Malchiodi said. “It will be a little more engaging. We are going to do our physical activity at the beginning of the program, because kids have been kind of sitting in classrooms all day, so we’ll let them burn off some steam.”

Malchiodi said the program’s counselors will work with Central School teachers to align parts of the before- and after-school program to what is being taught in classrooms.

“We’re going to give them the opportunity to help mold our curriculum, so it kind of dovetails with they’re doing and it’s support any units they’re working on,” Malchiodi said.

But fun will still be a big part of the program.

“There will be a curriculum, but it will be very recreational and a fun setting,” Malchiodi said.

This spring District 96 surveyed Central School parents who had kids in the Pav program, and 81.3 percent said they would like to try a pilot program offered by Riverside Parks and Rec.

In March, as part of a consent agenda, the school board voted 5-0 to approve the pilot program at Central. The Riverside Village Board voted to approve the partnership on June 15. 

Malchiodi said that Riverside Parks and Rec would eventually like to run programs at all the District 96 schools.

“We’ll be prepared for any future discussions and would certainly welcome the opportunity, but right now we just want to showcase what we can do at Central,” Malchiodi said.

Malchiodi said that Riverside Parks and Rec would charge the same fees to both Riverside residents and non-residents and that his department would have no problem offering a program at Hollywood School, which is in Brookfield. 

Staff will be a mixture of current Parks and Rec employees and new hires, Malchiodi said.

Parents can register their children for the before- and/or after-school program at the Riverside Parks and Rec, 10 Pine Ave., in the water tower, beginning June 27.

“We’ve made it very convenient for parents,” Malchiodi said. “They can do a full week, they can three-day flex, two-day flex and, of course, we have kind of drop-in emergency one-day pricing.”

The five day a week before-school care fee is $95 a month, and the five day a week after-school care fee is $245 a month.

During the 2016-17school year, about 60 Central School kids used the after-school care program, and 39 used it five days a week, Central School Principal Pete Gatz said.