Summit County after-school programs face increased demand, staffing shortages
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct Breckenridge Recreation Center operations in December.
With an increase in demand and staffing shortages, Summit County after-school programs have found themselves struggling to get through the year.
Representatives from Keystone Science School and the Breckenridge Recreation Center said this year has been especially difficult as more parents return to in-person work and businesses across the county experience staffing shortages.
Keystone Science School announced last week that it is canceling its Summit Cove after-school program for the remainder of the school year because of low staffing. The school typically operates four on-site programs at Dillon Valley, Frisco, Silverthorne and Summit Cove elementary schools and has students from Breckenridge and Blue River elementary schools attend programs at the Breckenridge Recreation Center.
Summit Cove has the lowest enrollment of the four programs, leading the school to cancel the program after dealing with staffing issues for months, spokesman David Miller said.
The science school has had an especially hard time finding part-time staff members who are able to work after-school hours. Often, those instructors also work service jobs that conflict with the timing for the after-school programs. To make do, the school has non-teaching staff fill in the gaps, Miller said.
“That was becoming a big, big challenge for the science school because we weren’t able to complete the rest of our duties,” Miller said. “We were always consistently staffing cross-departmental and having our (human resources) director serve as an instructor.”
Miller said all of the Summit Cove parents were informed of the cancellation and understanding of the staffing challenges. If the school is able to hire enough part-time employees to fill the open roles, then it would consider reopening the program for the rest of the year, Miller said.
Although it has been able to maintain a full staff, the Breckenridge Recreation Center has been “limping through,” Programs Manager Jon Dorr said. The center has been at max capacity throughout the year and seen demand for its programs rise as parents go back to work in person and find themselves in need of child care.
Dorr said the recreation center was lucky to be running fewer programs while students were on holiday break in December, when the omicron variant tore through communities. The center was operating only one program at the time, which Dorr said allowed them to avoid issues with staffing shortages.
“Demand is at an all time high,” he said. “There’s a lot of new families … that have moved to Summit County and Breckenridge in general. Parents, families and community members are excited to get back in and have their kids have some sense of normalcy.”
While he’s been able to maintain full staffing for the after-school programs, Dorr’s already trying to get ahead when it comes to staffing the center’s summer programs. The programs manager said he’s looking into hiring younger counselors for the summer program, including high schoolers and college students who have returned home, to meet the demands for the program.
Because those younger employees often already have housing, the biggest hiring barrier is removed, Dorr said.
“I really think that’s the future for our staffing model,” Dorr said. “Younger college or high school educated employees that grew up coming to the rec center.”
The science school still plans to run its full summer programming, which includes a day camp and off-site overnight camps, Miller said. The science school offers scholarship opportunities for the summer programs, which have an April 1 deadline for applications.
“We’ve been getting a good number of applications for all of our summer programs,” he said.
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