Interim summer children’s program a possibiity

by Phil Ambroziak

As summer draws near, the efforts of a group of concerned parents seeking the reintroduction of a children’s summer program in Meadow Lake are heating up.

Members of Parents Advocating for a Children’s Summer Program (PACSP) attended the May 14 meeting of Meadow Lake city council where an official request was made for the city to fund a new summer program.

“With the program ending this year, we decided to come here and express our desire to have the city fund a similar program,” remarked PACSP member Josey Loughins.

By “the program ending,” Loughins was referring to a recent announcement by the Northwest School Division to cancel its children’s summer program, a service which had been offered locally for a number of years. The program was terminated following the implementation of a new funding structure by the provincial Ministry of Education.

“We’re certain it’s too late to have anything go this year, but we’re hoping to get help for 2013,” Loughins continued. “I, like many other Meadow Lake citizens, feel a program like this is worth saving.”

Fellow PACSP member Andrea Fleck provided council with examples of other communities – ranging from Melfort to Yorkton – which feature municipally funded children’s summer programs. While some of these programs do receive additional support through grants and business donations, Fleck produced letters of support from close to 50 area residents asking the city to “step up” and do something.

As per PACSP’s request, this “something” would include a full-time weekday program for the duration of the summer that: provides responsible supervision and trustworthy leadership; encourages friendship, learning, physical activity, creativity, leadership and social development; provides healthy snacks and considers providing lunch; and has a small or no registration fee.

“I think this is something we can look toward for the future,” Fleck said. “It’s a lofty goal, but we set the bar high.”

Deputy-mayor Elaine Yaychuk asked if the group spoke to the school division to see if it would reconsider its decision while councillor Annette Klassen pointed out the percentage of tax dollars the city contributes to the school system.

“Of the taxes we collect, 40 per cent goes to the schools already,” Klassen said. “It’s the taxpayers who take care of the educational needs of these kids 10 months of the year.”

The discussion changed gears somewhat when councillor Toby Esterby announced he’d been in contact with JoAnne Carter of Transition Place Education Centre. While nothing is official, Esterby said Carter is interested in sharing ideas on how TPEC’s Addressing Barriers to Learning and Employment (ABLE) program could potentially help facilitate a summer program this year.

Carter did not attend the council meeting. However, an ABLE spokesperson said, if anything, this could lead to a temporary solution if the school division is willing to provide facilities or whatever in-kind donations it can.

ABLE, which is funded by both the federal and provincial governments, is aimed at young adults trying to become productive members of the community. Working at a summer program would allow them to develop their skills and take on leadership roles.

Mayor Gary Vidal said he appreciates where PACSP is coming from with its request, but believes it’s a discussion best suited for a later date.

“There’s obviously some good ideas there, but in the short-term we should look into JoAnne’s suggestion,” he said.

Esterby asked for council’s permission to facilitate further discussions with Carter to see if anything can be done.

 

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