KIDS CLUB

June 01, 2002 12:00 am
EMPHASIS ON FUN: Greenwood School third-grader Robert Partridge, left, and Central School first-grader Riley Kretschmer play games at the After School Kids Club Tuesday. Enrollment has dropped in the program.  (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
EMPHASIS ON FUN: Greenwood School third-grader Robert Partridge, left, and Central School first-grader Riley Kretschmer play games at the After School Kids Club Tuesday. Enrollment has dropped in the program. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Once a busy — almost crowded — day-care program, the After School Kids Club has seen its enrollment steadily decline over the past year, and the parent organization is trying to learn what the community wants or needs from the after-school program.

Begun in 1995, the Kids Club with its staff of three cared for 63 school-age children from January through March 2001. The number plummeted to 19 during the first three months of this year.

Funded through fees, the United Way,

La Grande Soroptimists and the Commission on Children and Families, the day-care center is under the umbrella of Community Connection, the private, non-profit corporation that provides senior services and the county food bank.

Two major factors have contributed to the Kids Club's enrollment decline: The day-care center's move from Willow Elementary School and the La Grande School District's after-school enrichment program, said Community Connection Director Margaret Davidson.

Last fall, the Kids Club moved to Valley Fellowship in the former National Guard Armory on Palmer Avenue. The club must now pay rent and provide transportation for the children, who are bused to Riveria School and transferred to a Community Connection vehicle.

Davidson said she believes the transportation difficulty has also affected the club's enrollment.

"The board is asking how important the club is to the community," said Union County Commissioner Steve McClure, Community Connection board chairman. "We'd like to hear from people."

Community Connection will hold a public information and discussion session at 5:30 p.m. June 5 at the Union County Senior Center on Albany Street. People are encouraged to attend and provide input, McClure said.

"This is not the first step in closing the Kids Club," he said. "We want to know what the community wants."

Cost of Kids Club day care ranges from $1.50 to $1.75 per hour, depending on income, Davidson said

"We don't want to deny anyone service because of income," she said.

The school district's after school homework club and enrichment program for elementary school children has been free since it opened a couple of years ago. But incoming superintendent Jay Rowell said the federal grant that funded the program has ended and the district may need to look at alternatives, including charging a small fee. No decisions have been made, he said.

Davidson said that with the close of the school year on June 4, she expects attendance at the Kids Club to increase — at least during the summer when day care is provided from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.