GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 14, 2013

Y program debuts today at W. Parish

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — GLOUCESTER — Two weeks after the city’s abrupt shutdown of the after-school program at the West Parish School, a new version of the program, run and staffed by the Cape Ann YMCA, begins today at the West Gloucester elementary school.

Brian Flynn, the interim Director of Operations at the Cape Ann Y, said the new program has some differences from the previous one.

For one thing, the program is licensed by state Department of Early Education and Care, similar to Y-run after-school programs that have been in place at East Gloucester Elementary School and Veterans Memorial School since 2011. The previous program, run by three supervisors and a substitute who worked for the school district, did not have a state license — and Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier noted Wednesday that a license is not required.

The state Department of Education, however, lists some guidelines to obtaining a license, such as a training in first-aid CPR, specialized training in child development, and background checks in addition to healthy and safe activities and a minimum ratio of supervisors to students.

Flynn said the program has a supervisor to student ratio of 1 to 13, but similar programs hosted by the YMCA often have staffing levels above state standards, listed as a ratio of 1 to 10.

The YMCA also has policies that state staff members must have a minimum of two years experience of working with children. Blair Hadley, now 24 and the coordinator of the new program, has been working with the YMCA since she was 16 and has plenty of experience working with children, Flynn said.

The old program, at the most populated of the city’s elementary schools, was shut down immediately on Friday, March 2, in the face of investigations launched by the Gloucester Police Department, the Essex County District Attorney’s office and the state Department of Children and Families.

Neither school nor law enforcement officials have talked publicly about the incident that led to the sudden closure, which also prompted a meeting at the school that night between parents and officials, including Safier, city Police Chief Leonard Campanello and Mayor Carolyn Kirk and left parents scrambling for day care on short notice.

According to Safier, the program was shut down to evaluate supervision levels, areas of supervision and student movement between areas. Additionally, Safier said, other after-school care programs at Beeman Elementary School and Plum Cove Elementary school will also be examined in terms of practices, policies and procedures.

Flynn said the program will also serve about 80 children and 60 families, the same as the previous program. In addition, the cost to parents remains largely unchanged, ranging from $5 to $8 depending on when a child is picked up.

The cost to taxpayers however, remains to be determined, Safier said Wednesday. Jonathan Pope, chairman of the School Committee, said the costs will be absorbed by the city and schools, but that the details and the costs are still being worked out.

Safier has declined to say whether the previous supervisors are still employed by the school district.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.