Summit County community leaders brainstorm solutions to after-school care problem |

Summit County community leaders brainstorm solutions to after-school care problem

Campers enjoy a dance party during free time at the Breckenridge Mountain Camp in Breckenridge on Feb. 17, 2022. Summit County leaders hope to find a solution for after-school care through community partnerships.
John Hanson/For the Summit Daily News

As after-school staffing issues persist, Summit County leaders hope to find a solution through community partnerships.

The Summit County commissioners hosted a town hall on Tuesday, March 29, that included representatives from the Summit School District, The Summit Foundation, Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne, Lake Dillon Theatre Co. and Keystone Science School.

The goal of the conversation was to answer community questions and brainstorm solutions to the after-school problem, which has left some families scrambling to find care for their children. The problem has only been exacerbated since the science school canceled its after-school programming for the remainder of the school year on March 17.

“Making this decision was not easy,” said Ellen Reid, Keystone Science School executive director. “We have done our very best to provide high-quality care, but ultimately there just wasn’t enough staff.”

Some community organizations, like the Lake Dillon Theatre Co., have been able to fill gaps left by the science school, but county leaders have yet to find a long-term solution to the problem.

The main barrier in the way of successful after-school programs is staffing. The traditional model of hiring part-time employees who only work from 3-5 p.m. doesn’t work for many Summit County laborers.

At the town hall, county and town leaders talked about ways to get around that staffing issue. The theater does it by hiring teaching artists, who work full time doing other tasks throughout the day and then teach after school. The Breckenridge Recreation Center has a similar model, placing after-school workers in other positions like life guarding and front desk duties.

The recreation center also benefits from being able to provide housing for its employees through the town of Breckenridge, which owns units that are rented out to town employees. Every day, the recreation center serves between 80 and 100 children whose families live or work in Breckenridge, but Recreation Programs Manager Jon Dorr said there’s still around 20 children who are unable to use the care.

“Staffing and housing are our two biggest barriers,” Dorr said. “We’re in a good space right now … but that could change in a minute.”

The other major issue for after-school programs is transportation. Some organizations like the town of Frisco have bought passenger vans to shuttle children from school to after-school programs and then back home. Others have had to rely on family pickup, which can be a challenge for working families.

Some members of the community asked if the school district would be able to have teachers extend their days to staff after-school care. Chief Academic Officer Mary Kay Dore said the district piloted that solution this year with a staff member at Silverthorne Elementary. Ultimately, that staff member decided to leave the position.

The district has also asked teachers if they would be willing to work after school to no avail, Dore said. The district itself also struggles with staffing many positions, meaning there aren’t a lot of laborers to go around.

“We’ve struggled with trying to solve the problem ourselves, which is why we need our partners,” she said.

Other community members posited the possibility of hiring high school students to work after school. Program providers said that’s often difficult to pull off because students may have other activities like sports and school projects that prevent them from being able to reliably show up to after-school programs.

Going forward, the commissioners are going to look at identifying an organizing body that could help the after-school programs and other organizations like dance studios and sports teams work as a unit rather than individuals. Commissioner Tamara Pogue added that she has reached out to the Boys and Girls Club to see about opening a chapter in Summit County, which would provide more care.

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