After months of disbelief and public outcry over the elimination of the winter recreation program from Summit County's elementary schools, SOS Outreach has announced it's picking up the pieces.
The details surrounding the new winter rec program are still being ironed out, but SOS Summit County programs director Theresa Papandrea says she's trying to keep it as similar as possible to the last iteration of the district's program, albeit during out-of-school hours.
The Summit County School District version offered three half-days of snowshoe, cross-country ski, alpine ski and snowboarding, ice skating and swimming activities to elementary school students, with activities differing by grade. Papandrea is still working with local ski areas and rec centers to coordinate plans, but hopes to offer the same activities over one-, two- or three-hour sessions, three days a month. Activities will most likely be held on Monday afternoons - when kids get out an hour earlier - or Saturdays. Papandrea is in discussions with the district's transportation team to coordinate transit.
The SOS mission is to build character and self-esteem through outdoor activities and a leadership curriculum.
"We thought if we could help and take over and give that opportunity to kids still, then that still fits in our mission," Papandrea said. "We'd be excited to get kids doing these sports if they weren't able to because the opportunity is gone from school."
The school district sent out letters to parents in late September saying the rec program was cut, citing the need for more class time to focus on preparation for the Colorado Student Assessment Program. Members of the public voiced opposition to the decision, and in late October, the district announced it was in discussions with resorts and recreation centers about offering something similar during winter break or other holidays.
Parent Kevin Smits, who has two children attending Summit Cove Elementary, said he was part of a group of vocal parents upset with the district's decision. He said he's thrilled to hear SOS is working to reinstate the program.
"It's one of the reasons that everybody sacrifices to be here is to have your child learn a winter sport," he said.
SOS will have to charge for the service, as the school district did; Papandrea hopes to keep the prices about the same as before, which ranged from $20 to $70, depending on grade and activity. The organization will be charged for the use of district buses, which will probably be the biggest cost in providing the programming. To make everything work, SOS will "probably have to move some funds around," according to Papandrea.
SOS has not yet proposed receiving school district funding, nor has the district budgeted any, spokeswoman Jaimee Borger said. But, if the district can provide in-kind services, Borger said it will.
"Their initiative to organize and implement the SOS Outreach Recreation Program benefits our students and local families who can now continue to take advantage of the opportunities Summit County affords," superintendent Heidi Pace said. "Summit School District looks forward to the working relationship we are continuing with SOS Outreach."