Parents in South Windsor plan to attend a town council meeting Monday night, to put pressure on council members to help expand the Parks and Recreation’s 4th R Program.
In March more than 75 parents camped out for hours, trying to secure a child a spot in the program. Most of them were put on the waitlist.
Since then, the town manager directed the parks and recreation director and his staff to do an extensive review, look at expansion options and look at what surrounding towns provide. At this point the director concluded it is impossible to expand because they need to hire more staff and need more space for recreational activities.
That is why the four Republican members of the town council said they voted against forming a committee to address the issue.
“It appears they’re trying to force the expansion of this, which isn’t feasible at this point in time. We don’t want a diluted program and we don’t want to negatively affect the students that are in there now,” Janice Snyder, one of the four town councilors who voted against it, said.
There are 320 students enrolled in the before-and-after school program, 39 of them were originally on the wait list, according to Ray Favreau, the director of parks and recreation.
Snyder, who voted against forming a committee, said this is a great opportunity for private businesses to open up.
“Daycare is not the responsibility of town government or the board of education or the taxpayers. We empathize with their need, we recognize with their need and we know this is an issue. But there’s other ways these types of problems can be solved,” Snyder said.
But parents, like Corie Tracey, said they exhausted many of those options and many daycares are already full. Others in South Windsor do have space, but they fall out of the busing boundaries for the individual schools.
Tracey said she hopes the Republican council members who voted against forming a committee will reconsider.
“No one is asking for the town to pay for it. No one is asking for this to be offered to us for free. We’re just asking the town to come together,” Tracey said. “To me this is a community issue, not a daycare issue. Our town enrollment is projected to rise. They’re building new homes, there’s families moving here. And I think if we want to attract new, younger families, which is great for the town’s growth, we need to provide some type of solution.”
The parks and recreation department still needs to replace 18 staff members for the next school year. Any additional staff will help them accommodate more students.
“It’s a challenge to attract folks and we pay pretty well, way above minimum wage. So we encourage people who are looking to work with children to come on in and see us,” Favreau said. “We are not going to jeopardize the credibility or the safety of the program. If things change and more appropriate space, more appropriate staff is available, we’ll be happy to take those folks in.”