By Susan Miller

Missourian Staff Writer

Starting next semester, the Washington School District will offer before and after care programs at Augusta and Marthasville schools.

The pilot program was unanimously approved by the school board Wednesday night.

The Four Rivers Area YMCA currently operates after-school programs at six of the district’s elementary schools, but dropped Augusta and Marthasville this year due to low participation numbers.

CFO Shelley Kinder said that put many parents across the river in a bind, and it got school officials thinking about operating their own program and expanding it to before school as well.

“We will pilot it at these two schools and see how it goes,” Kinder told the board. “If it works, it’s something we could go full scale with at our new Early Childhood Center next year.”

All of the district’s in-town preschool programs will be housed in the new center when it opens. Preschool is only a half-day program and many parents have requested aftercare for their children.

Kinder said Washington West Elementary parents also have contacted the district about offering a before school program second semester there as well, and school officials are looking into the feasibility of that program.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the district has appreciated its partnership with the YMCA. But since that organization is not providing a program at Augusta and Marthasville, the district wants to step in and help out families, she said.

The cost, which has not been finalized, would be about $2.75 per hour for the first child and $2 for the second. A snack also will be provided.

Parents utilizing the YMCA program pay a set fee based on two to three days, or four to five days.

Kinder said she didn’t know if the low numbers for the YMCA program at Augusta and Marthasville were due to costs, but she said some parents would prefer to pay per hour for the days needed.

The district is not looking to make money on the program, she said, but rather provide a service to parents.

Staff will be hired to run the sites, and the district’s food service department will provide a snack.

VanLeer said students enrolled in the A+ program at Washington High School, which requires a certain amount of tutoring or mentoring hours, could help out at the schools as well. Homework assistance also will be available.

School board member Dan Contarini asked if the pilot program is successful would the district offer the same services at all of the elementary schools.

“I could see parents wanting that, especially if it’s cheaper,” he said.

VanLeer said that could happen, but the district will start small with the pilot program at the two schools and then the Early Childhood Center.

“It sounds like a great program,” board President Scott Byrne said.

Board member Brian Sumner agreed, saying it’s a wonderful service to offer parents.

School board members also received a copy of the parent handbook for the before and after care program.

Tentatively, the hours of the program will be 6:30 a.m. to the start of school and immediately after school to 6 p.m.

The program also will be offered on half-days and when students are not in class due to professional development for staff.

VanLeer said she plans to meet with the YMCA to discuss the program.