School district pulls plug on after-school care

Eben Harrell

The Aspen School District has disbanded its after-school day-care program because the program failed to make enough money to support itself, the district superintendent confirmed yesterday.

The Extended Day program, which monitored elementary school students from 3-5:30 p.m., has seen its numbers dwindle in recent years. This year, the program averaged fewer than eight students a day, according to Superintendent Diana Sirko.

At $10 per student per day, the program did not generate enough income to justify its costs, Sirko said. The district is currently in the middle of a three-year plan to eliminate a nearly $1 million budget deficit.

“One of the things our budget crunch forces us to do is to evaluate all expenditures,” Sirko said. “This program was set up from the beginning to be self-supporting. That’s how it’s usually done around the state.”

The program will close this week. No employees will lose their jobs, Sirko said, because the teacher’s assistant who administered the program will remain employed in the middle school.

Aspen Elementary School Principal Robin Whitacre said the Aspen Recreation Center, which supervises children 7 and older for $1 per day, is a big reason for the dwindling participation in the school district’s Extended Day program.

Whitacre said she is concerned for the parents of students under 7, who now are left without a day-care option. She said she is currently in negotiations with day-care providers, including the Aspen Youth Center, in the hope of offering an alternative.

“I’m really concerned about those families that don’t have any place to go,” Whitacre said. “But I am in contact with Aspen Youth Center and they are trying to help work with us to find a solution. My hope is that [the parents] might be without after [school] care for a week or so but soon we’ll have another option going.”

Whitacre said possible solutions include contracting the Aspen Youth Center to take over the program at the school, or arranging for the students to be walked over to the Aspen Recreation Center.

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