Orono City Council renews after-school program following Old Town closure of childcare programs

ORONO, Maine – The Orono City Council has approved a new afterschool program that will fill a void left in the area when Old Town Recreation recently announced the closure of all of its child care programs.

Orono opted out of funding an after-school program through its parks and recreation department several years ago due to low enrollment and a consistent lack of space. But with a need in the community and new spaces available to use in town, council approved a plan Wednesday at a special meeting to renew the program. The after-school program will give parents new options when Old Town Recreation winds down its childcare program at the end of August.

City Manager Sophie Wilson said Orono is working with University of Maine Campus Recreation and RSU 26 — Orono’s school district — to formalize staffing and space agreements, in the aim to launch registration early next week and a tentative start date of September 13.

The new program will use space at Asa Adams Elementary School that RSU 26 Superintendent Meredith Higgins has already approved. A survey of 105 people who have students at Asa Adams showed that at least 86 would consider sending their children to the program, Wilson said.

“An after-school program isn’t about doing work in the private sector, it’s about creating a vibrant parks and recreation program for the community,” Wilson said. “It aligns perfectly with the priority of bringing families with school-aged children – or keeping them – to our community.”

At a minimum, the program would cost the city $29,538 and a maximum of $59,427, according to a memo Wilson delivered to the council. The purpose of the program would not be to generate profit, but to provide a service to the community, Wilson told the Council.

“I am completely in favor of this. I heard from at least 20 parents [Wednesday] how supportive they are of that and nightmarish stories of how they’ve been juggling things and just needing something,” Councilor Laura Mitchell said.

Last week, Old Town recreation director Adam Mahaney said his organization had struggled to recruit and retain staff throughout the pandemic and was facing a number of financial burdens, including $20,000 in necessary building repairs and delays in state reimbursements. forcing the closure of their childcare offers.

Wilson said in his memo to councilors that with the loss of the Old Town regional program and newly built spaces within the Asa Adams School, there is room for Orono to offer some sort of program again. extracurricular. This, she says, is necessary community service.

The after-school program is expected to cost families around $15 a day and will accommodate a dozen children to start. Three staff members will supervise the children. Staff will be added as enrollment grows in the future to ensure safe student-to-staff ratios, Wilson said.