Last month, Springfield Public Schools officials unveiled an expansion of before- and after-school care for district students in grades K-8.
The program, SHINE, has a promise for its tagline: “Before- or After-School Care for Every Student at Every School.”
Through SHINE, which stands for Students Have Important Needs Every day, SPS is partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield, the Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s SPARC childcare program, the Springfield Dream Center and the Ozarks Regional YMCA.
In the week leading up to the start of the school year, some parents were finding themselves seemingly shut out of the SHINE program, with wait lists established at multiple schools.
Michael Methvin, director of elementary learning for SPS and coordinator of SHINE, had this advice for parents who are waiting for a spot: Don’t get discouraged.
“Continue to reach out,” he said. “They will be asked to connect with their provider for that site. That provider will give them next steps for how to make sure they are able to engage in programming.”
Methvin said that over 1,500 students are signed up for SHINE. SPS is Missouri’s largest school district, with 24,309 students in 2020.
SPS has allocated $3.4 million of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER II, funds to support the SHINE partnership, which will help fund scholarships for eligible students, academic supplies and salaries for academic support staff. Scholarships are available based on site capacity and available funding, according to district spokesperson Teresa Bledsoe.
All partners require specific student/staff ratios, Methvin said, and the agencies are scrambling to accommodate students by recruiting more staff.
“Obviously, as is the case everywhere you go, staffing is a challenge,” he said. “Our partners are continuing to onboard staff to increase the number of students they can serve.”
At the outset, when partner agencies are unable to accommodate all students, Methvin said school personnel will step in.
“There are a few sites where they’ve started a wait list, but the district is going to make sure there is an opportunity for them to participate in SHINE,” he said.
SPARC officials said those on wait lists are not forgotten.
Diana Tyndall, marketing and sponsorship coordinator, and Diana Ellison, community recreation services administrator, collaborated on answering some questions about SPARC’s involvement in SHINE.
“We are remaining steadfast in focusing on the onboarding of additional staff as quickly as possible, as well as working with DHSS to expand our child care licensing in order for our SPARC programs to meet the growing community need,” they wrote via email.
They added that employment applications are still being accepted for program staff.
Jenny Edwards, Park Board public information administrator, which administers SPARC, said staffing is vital.
“The success of growing this program really does depend on being able to hire enough people to work it,” she said. “I’ve heard similar things from the other programs. Everyone knows there’s a labor shortage in just about every sector. We really need applicants and need them quickly.”
Likewise, many working parents are experiencing an urgent need for childcare.
Didem Koroglu, director of development at Boys & Girls Clubs, explained that needs vary from child to child and family to family, but providing a safe place for children while parents are at work is a big one.
For those families who are still on wait lists, Boys & Girls Clubs is in touch.
“We’ve been communicating, and we are fulfilling our numbers based on staffing,” Koroglu said.
Methvin said SHINE is supported by federal coronavirus relief funds to target two needs: addressing learning loss – students missed 90-plus days of seated learning due to COVID-19 – and allowing families to seek and engage in employment.
“Our focus is obviously on meeting the needs of families and providing additional learning opportunities for students beyond the regular school day,” Methvin said.
As the district transitions back on Aug. 23 to five days per week of in-person school, a big challenge is helping to make up for the learning loss that happened during at-home learning. While after-school care has long been offered through various agencies at district schools, the programs did not typically include learning opportunities.
“We started with a brainstorming session about what that might look like and how we could use current structures we have in place to meet that need,” Methvin said. “How do we add a learning component to our current programming?”
Methvin said the program will include homework help as well as intensive assistance for students who are functioning below grade-level expectations. “It’s a more intensive opportunity to give them exposure to grade-level standards,” Methvin said. “Our partners are on board for all of that.”
He added that play also will be a priority.
“They will still have a chance to blow off some steam as they transition at the end of the school day,” he said. “The goal is that they go home without having homework because they had a chance to get that done during after-school care.”
Boys & Girls Clubs has been able to hire academic coordinators with educational backgrounds for each of its sites. “We’re very excited. One-on-one tutoring is kind of the deal,” Koroglu said.
Boys & Girls Clubs has always had an academic component, but Koroglu noted that SHINE allows them to take that further.
SPARC also is committed to helping breach the gap caused by the lack of seated instruction. Tyndall and Ellison said COVID-19 led to lost opportunities for students to have in-person connections.
“We help to fill this gap with educators by addressing both the educational and social-emotional needs. It was absolutely something we wanted to be a part of,” they said via email.
While the wait lists are worrisome to some parents, others have reported smooth sailing with their registration process.
“We registered for aftercare with no problem,” said Peggy Wise, who lives in the Rountree neighborhood.
Rountree parent Leah Burmood, whose son is 5, has had a very different experience.
“I still have not gotten a SHINE spot,” she said. “With school starting soon, I had to find other child care.”
Burmood had to hire a nanny to take care of her son after school.
“With a child starting into kindergarten, there are many unknowns – especially during a pandemic,” she said. “I pride myself with being pretty flexible, but I need reliable after-school care in order to be able to work.”
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