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11:54 PM Sun, Nov. 18th

Prescott Unified School District arranging new before- and after-school care

Patrick Whitehurst/The Daily Courier<br>
Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona Executive Director Gerald Szostak, PUSD Assistant Superintendent Joe Howard, Kids and Company director Nicole McNally, Prescott YMCA Associate Director Laura Winniford-Hodgins, and PUSD Superintendent Dave Smucker discuss the future of before- and after-school programs in the Prescott area.

Patrick Whitehurst/The Daily Courier<br> Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona Executive Director Gerald Szostak, PUSD Assistant Superintendent Joe Howard, Kids and Company director Nicole McNally, Prescott YMCA Associate Director Laura Winniford-Hodgins, and PUSD Superintendent Dave Smucker discuss the future of before- and after-school programs in the Prescott area.

PRESCOTT, Arizona - Following Tuesday's decision to close the Kids and Company before- and after-school program in the Prescott Unified School District, alternative arrangements for affected students are already falling into place.

Representatives from the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona and the Prescott YMCA visited with PUSD Superintendent Dave Smucker and assistant superintendent Joe Howard on Friday morning to discuss before and after school programs for students in the Prescott community.

Governing board members made the decision to close the program on Tuesday during a special morning meeting.

"We're trying to put together a direction and share that information with members of our community about before and after school programs," Smucker said. "I appreciate everyone coming to the table in support of a smooth transition."

Discussion topics on Friday included what programs are available to parents, times that are available for kids, transportation to and from the programs, program costs, and communicating with parents.

Laura Winniford-Hodgins, associate director with the Prescott YMCA, said that in addition to an after-school program, the organization would offer a before-school program for students beginning Monday, Aug. 4, from 6:30 to 8 a.m.

"We will open a before-school program starting on the first day of school at the YMCA. The buses will come to pick up the kids about 7:30 a.m. and take them to school," Winniford-Hodgins said, adding, "We will also be continuing our after-school program."

Students will be bussed from the program in time for them to have breakfast at the school if they choose, Howard said.

Like the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club in Prescott also offers an after-school program for students.

"PUSD is going to be bussing to the Boys and Girls Club," said Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona executive director Gerald Szostak. "We are a youth development facility, so we're not a licensed daycare facility. We'll be open right after school until 6:30 p.m.

"Our facility has a game room, a learning center, 12 computers, a separate teen area, and a multi-purpose room with a stage," Szostak said. "Our main focus is on academic success, healthy lifestyles and good character and citizen."

Dedicated homework time is also provided at the club for an hour.

"If they don't have homework, then they have to do something educational for that hour," Szostak said.

Cost for the Boys and Girls Club includes a $25 annual membership fee and monthly rates that begin at $40.

"That varies on income from the parents," he explained. "There are discounts available."

Prices at the YMCA vary, according to Winniford-Hodgins. The facility is state licensed and Department of Economic Security (DES)-approved.

"Folks who qualify for DES can go through DES. We also have YMCA scholarships that are available. You can apply online or just stop at the front desk," she said. "I really appreciate the fact the school district put all this together so we can help transition these kids."

For more information on the YMCA, visit www.prescottymca.org. For more information on the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona, find them online at www.bgccaz.org.

Information on options for parents will be made available on the PUSD website at mypusd.prescottschools.com/pusdwp, Smucker said. Information on both clubs will also be available at individual schools located within the district.

Kids and Company director Nicole McNally said she feels confident about the future of the partnership between the two organizations and the school district.

"I think it's going to be a transition. It's going to take some time. Parents are nervous and they're worried," McNally said.

McNally will remain on staff as the director for a few more weeks to help close the program and work with parents who might need assistance during the transition.

"If they're having trouble with something, I'm hoping to be able to be a liaison or to help them out and send them in the right direction," she said.

Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier