YMCA shares issues after BVSD ends group’s youngster care contract

The Northern Colorado YMCA will stop offering pre- and post-school care in Boulder Valley schools this fall as the school district becomes the exclusive provider of childcare services on its premises.

The policy change was approved by the school board in January. At the same time, a revision of a guideline on the shared use of school facilities was approved.

YMCA executives along with 13 other organizations and several individuals recently sent a letter to the Boulder Valley School District raising concerns about the policy revisions and the potential impact on access for low-income students. The group “A coalition for youth access” asked for a break “to enable an open and transparent process among all those involved”.

Rob Anderson, superintendent of Boulder Valley, said at the school council meeting Tuesday that he had “some significant concerns” about the coalition letter.

“The letter is full of inaccuracies,” he said, adding that supporters likely would not have written their names on it if they had been aware of the inaccuracies.

Inaccuracies, according to district officials, include how rental rates will rise over the next school year and that many organizations will be affected. District officials said only the YMCA will be affected by the policy changes.

Most school districts, including St. Vrain Valley, offer their own childcare programs, said Renee Williams, director of Boulder Valley Community Schools. The benefits of in-house childcare include continuity of care, easy sharing of information with class teachers, and meeting the needs of bilingual students and students with disabilities, she said.

“We can support our children and families,” she said.

The district had a long-term contract with the YMCA that dates back to the 1970s. In 2019-20, before the pandemic, the YMCA ran childcare programs in 13 Boulder Valley schools. The district ran its own childcare programs in 16 schools that year.

The district will replace the YMCA programs with its own in the next school year so that parents have equal childcare options, according to district officials.

Chris Coker, CEO and president of the Northern Colorado YMCA, said he accepted the district’s decision to end the childcare agreement but remained concerned about access to summer childcare programs and extracurricular programs for low-income students. The other two counties where the Northern Colorado YMCA runs childcare programs in schools, Thompson Valley and Weld RE-5J, don’t charge rent, he said.

The district agreed to extend the YMCA discount for summer programs at two schools, Boulders Combined BCSIS and High Peaks and Louisville Elementary, for this year. However, the YMCA will have to pay the regular price in the years to come.

Without the rental break that the district had made available to the YMCA – a tariff that was not made available to any other organization – the YMCA cannot afford to both rent buildings and give scholarships to students who need summer programs, said Coker. District officials said the YMCA received a 40% rental discount.

“We can’t raise our prices enough to cover rent and scholarships,” said Coker. “There’s a huge paywall between kids and programs. We are calling for a systemic change in the district. “

He said YMCA partner organizations share his concerns about access to affordable summer childcare programs for low-income students, including the Emergency Family Assistance Association, Imagine !, Intercambio and the Sister Carmen Community Center.

Lisa Swainey, YMCA of Norther Colorado’s senior vice president of community programs, said schools are great places for summer programs because parents in their neighborhood need care.

“The Y is about gaining access,” she said.

Williams of the school district responded that 18 licensed summer camps for childcare are renting classrooms in Boulder Valley this summer. These organizations set their tuition fees and make their own decisions about scholarships, she said, adding that she believes all provide financial assistance based on income.

“Nobody complained to us about rental prices,” she said.

The district also offers free childcare through its own programs at four locations for summer school programs for families who require care beyond the half-day program, while Broomfield offers free childcare at a fifth location for summer schools.

Another concern of the Youth Access Coalition was that the policy changes would allow the district to charge a much higher school rental rate to small nonprofit groups like sports clubs and camp programs that primarily serve the youth – and that cost would do so Families, which limits access.

But Williams said the policy revisions only clarify the rental process and make costs more transparent. Both nonprofit and nonprofit groups that primarily serve youth will continue to receive the same discounted rate, she said, adding the district plans to make this more clear in the provisions of the policy.

District officials said more than 800 community groups and organizations rent space in the school district in a typical, non-pandemic year. The rent covers the cleaning and monitoring costs as well as the costs for the maintenance of the property. It’s not a moneymaker for the district, officials said.

The district also does not charge rent to groups sponsored or hosted by a Boulder Valley school or department. Therefore, a district employee must stay with the group and take responsibility for its actions. These groups are Education Impact, I Have a Dream, Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, Jamie Smith Tutor, PARITY, Parent Engagement Network, Intercambio and Thorne Nature Bike Fair.

Comments are closed.