By Bob Skolnik
The Brookfield Recreation Department is poised to apply to run a new aftercare program at Brook Park School next year.
The Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 Board of Education has authorized Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski to publish and send out a request for proposals to run a new after-school program next year for District 95 students.
Sitting in the audience at last week's school board meeting when the subject was discussed were Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg and Brookfield Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari.
Ferrari confirmed after the meeting that the Brookfield Recreation Department will be submitting a proposal to run an aftercare program. Ferarri said that the village has been talking to the district occasionally throughout the year about possibly running such a program at Brook Park School, which is in LaGrange Park but serves many students who live in Brookfield.
Ferrari, who began working for the village of Brookfield in 2018, says she has a lot of experience working in programs designed to care for kids after school.
"I have run pretty extensive before- and aftercare programs with Lockport Park District," Ferrari said noting that she ran a program that served more than 600 kids from 13 different schools across six different school districts. "I consider before- and after-school care programming and camps my wheelwell."
She said that she also worked for the Joliet Park District when they started a before- and after-school care program.
"I know what it takes to run a quality program, and I know what kind of impact it has for families and programming," Ferrari said.
District 95 does not offer an after-school program, but the district has decided to explore offering its own aftercare program after some parents expressed dissatisfaction with the aftercare program that has long been offered at St. Louise De Marillac School. Many Brook Park students attend the St. Louise aftercare program.
This fall, District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski held two forums with parents to discuss aftercare programs and heard concerns about the St. Louise program.
Many parents seem dissatisfied with the St. Louise program, including concerns about a high student-to-staff ratio. Kuzniewski said that many parents these days expect elementary school districts to offer a robust aftercare program.
"I don't know if St. Louise's model has developed to meet their expectations," Kuzniewski said.
School board member Meaghan McAteer said the school board is responding to the desires of parents for the school district to offer its own program.
"The community has asked for it," McAteer said. "There's a consensus that we need another option."
St. Louise School Principal Ann Mahay declined to comment when asked about how a new program would affect the St. Louise program, which serves about 180 kids on a weekly basis, although 256 have used the program at some time this year.
The St. Louise program is open from 3 to 6 p.m. and charges by the hour: $8 an hour for one child, $11 an hour for two children and $13 an hour for three or more children.
Kuzniewski said that he thought a District 95 program would charge a little more than that.
"I don't think it will be significantly more," Kuzniewski said.
Ferrari said if the Brookfield Recreation Department gets a contract to run the program, it would aim to have a staff-to-kid ratio of 1 to 10.
Ferrari also said that if the recreation department runs the program, it would charge the same price to all attendees no matter where they live.
"For this after school program there wouldn't be village and non-village resident rates," Ferrari said.
The Recreation Department would not try to make money on the program.
"We want to make sure we keep it affordable to families," Ferrari said.
Organizations have until Jan. 27 to submit proposals to District 95 to operate a program.
Kuzniewski said that if the school district begins an after-care program it would be difficult to end it.
"We're at a crossroads because for a long time St. Louise has filled the void." Kuzniewski said.