Keystone Science School cancels after-school programming as staffing issue persists
After months of ongoing staffing shortages, the Keystone Science School is canceling its on-site, after-school programs for elementary students. The cancellation goes in effect for the remainder of the school year starting March 17.
For the past 10 years, the nonprofit has served around 20-30 students through after-school programs at Frisco, Silverthorne, Dillon Valley and Summit Cove elementary schools.
In February, the organization announced it was canceling the Summit Cove program because of staffing shortages. Staffing issues have only gotten worse in the weeks since, with six part-time staff members resigning from their roles in the past two months. No one has applied to fill those positions, according to a news release.
The organization is at about 50% capacity, meaning many of its administrative staff members have had to step into after-school facilitator roles, spokesperson Dave Miller said. For example, Miller, whose official title is director of marketing and strategic partnerships, spent Wednesday afternoon cooking dinner for a program on the science school’s campus.
The situation puts a heavy strain on the entire organization as staff members move outside of their roles, Miller said.
“We’re all just focusing on prioritizing where we can and meeting our day-to-day responsibilities,” he said. “The majority of things are just not happening, and we are leaving a lot of tasks to another day.”
The science school has historically struggled to staff its after-school programs because of the part-time nature of the role. Program facilitators, who oversee the after-school activities, work from 3:30-5:30 p.m. each weeknight. It’s often hard to find people who can afford to only work those hours or don’t have conflicts with other full-time or part-time jobs, Executive Director Ellen Reid said.
“We know that folks need full-time work, and it’s really hard to piece something together when a portion of your work time is 3:30-5:30,” she said.
The organization tried to get ahead of staffing issues this year by implementing a number of different strategies. The nonprofit combined part-time roles into two full-time positions that would support the after-school programs in addition to other duties. However, Miller said the science school could not find anyone to fill one of the roles after having the position open for the entire school year.
The science school also offered housing for part-time after-school program employees for the first time this year. That didn’t convince all of the employees to stay, as many resigned because they needed full-time work or they decided to move out of the county.
The nonprofit has tried to piece together solutions with the school district — which is also facing staffing shortages — yet ultimately the science school had no choice but to cancel the programs.
“There just simply aren’t enough people to go around,” Reid said.
While the program cancellations are tough for the science school, it’s even more difficult for the parents who rely on the child care it provides. The science school has already started working with elementary principals and school district leaders to determine ways they can support affected families.
Miller said the science school is collecting the contact information of all of the parents and guardians involved in the programs to help connect them with each other in case they can support one another with carpooling or babysitting.
“We’re honestly losing sleep at night just thinking about the challenges that parents are being forced to experience right now,” he said.
Although the school district isn’t able to supplement the after-school program at this time, district spokesperson Andrea Ridder wrote in an email that district officials are hoping to work with the community to solve the child care issues.
The program cancellations have no effect on Breckenridge and Upper Blue elementary students who participate in the same after-school curriculum through the Breckenridge Recreation Center. It also has no effect on the science school’s Summit Day Camp program, which offers child care from June through August for Summit School District students.
Because the summer program operates on a full-time work schedule, Miller said the science school doesn’t have trouble staffing it.
The future of the after-school program remains unknown, Reid said. The nonprofit is working with community groups to solve the child care and staffing issues.
“We’re sitting in the front seat, waving our hands to say, ‘We’re ready to look at collaborative solutions,’” she said.
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