From PEAK and SACC to PACE. It’s an acronym nightmare. So far, the transition from two summer programs to one hasn’t exactly been smooth for students, parents and school district employees, either.
This year, the Proving Activity Centers for Enrichment program replaced the Providing Enrichment Activities for Kids and School Age Child Care summer programs from previous years.
PACE was divided into two groups — “enrichment” and “exploration,” and moved from Broadwater to Bryant and Central elementary schools, which was somewhat confusing for families as the program began.
The enrichment portion was held for five weeks beginning the week after school let out for the summer, and 303 young people participated. Exploration began at the same time, but it lasts until school resumes at the end of August. Nearly 360 students are participating.
“Overall it wasn’t without complications,” said Superintendent of Helena Public Schools Bruce Messinger.
For Kryss Kuntz’s 9-year-old daughter, who has been participating in the Helena School District’s summer programs for three years, the program was a benefit.
“She always enjoyed the activities,” Kuntz said. “The people who work behind the scenes work awful hard, and they sure switched it up.”
Not only did the district change the name and location of the summer program, but it also implemented a new online registration and pay system. The program intended to make accounting easier for the business department as well provide families with an electronic way to register and make payments, but both have proven challenging.
“It’s hasn’t been the easiest process,” Kuntz said of the software program.
She said as glitches came up with registration or payments she would call the main office, and the district staff was helpful walking her through the process and answering her questions.
One particular struggle with the new software program has been overriding the system when families need modified tuition, Messinger said.
“Once we get going, it will be a lot more convenient for families,” Messinger said. “It worked well when people used the system like it was designed to do.”
For Kuntz, who is a single mother, one of the big issues was cost. Her bills for July and August were both over $300.
“It came as a hard hit,” she admitted.
This was Kate Fry’s first year bringing her 6-year-old daughter to the program.
“I don’t have anything to compare it to and I just go by her response,” Fry said. “She has fun, is entertained, is learning something and making some friends. It’s been good for her. She seems happy.”
Fry’s daughter mostly participated in the exploration portion, but also did two weeks of enrichment.
“I don’t have anything negative to say about the enrichment, but (staff) seemed like mostly teenagers,” she said. “Exploration was mostly ladies. I took notice of it, but it didn’t impact anything my daughter did.”
Messinger said as the program reaches completion this summer, a debriefing of sorts will help iron out the wrinkles before next summer.
“We learned some lessons that will be beneficial to us,” he said.
Two reasons for the changes — transportation and meals — were benefits to families this summer. Because Central and Bryant have a large number of low-income families, the school district was able to provide these extra services with financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.
As the summer wraps up in a few weeks and thoughts turn back toward the first day of school, parents can take comfort in knowing that after-school care will be the same as last year. The SACC after-school program will remain the same this fall as last year. It is available at all 11 elementary schools. The only change parents may still be adjusting to is the online registration and payment process.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or email@example.com