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RALLY to end most morning programming

Posted: November 4, 2011 - 3:50pm  |  Updated: November 6, 2011 - 1:11am

Juneau School District is cutting back on its RALLY (Recreation, Arts, Learning, and Leadership for Youth) program by cutting almost all morning options and combining two after-school programs starting Jan. 3, 2012.

The district cites financial reasons for the cutbacks. All six elementary schools currently have RALLY, which provides child care before and after school for students enrolled in the program. It also has summer care options. Harborview will be the only elementary school to retain its one-hour morning offering as there are 16 students enrolled.

Mendenhall River Community School and Glacier Valley Elementary School will see their afternoon programs combined, otherwise afternoon options remain untouched.

“The situation with the morning program is that there are only four to six children at each RALLY apart from Harborview that are attending,” said Kristin Bartlett, district communications manager. “The attendance in the morning, I don’t think we could raise the fees to the extent necessary to cover the costs with low enrollment.”

Bartlett said the problem is the program costs more than it makes.

“By making changes to the areas that are not cost effective, this will allow us to stop losing money and hopefully it will help pay for some of the losses it has already incurred,” she said.

During the 2010-11 school year, fees were increased by 10 percent to offset costs. During that fiscal year, the program was $150,000 in the red. Since those fee increases didn’t help and because of the low enrollment numbers, the district had to look at areas of the program that are not cost effective, she said.

“RALLY is not intended to be a profit-making service,” Bartlett said. “What we’re doing is trying to make the changes so that it can pay for itself. The intent is not to make a profit. The important thing about RALLY is it is a really critical need for this community. Child care is a big issue. We’re trying to make changes so we can continue to provide services to families who rely on them.”

Letters went out to parents on Thursday and elementary staff were updated on the action.

“Mostly we’re trying to get the word out to the community and the parents so people can make other arrangements if they need to or make changes that work for their family,” Bartlett said. “... We want to get as smooth of a transition as possible. I know this impacts the community with the child care issues.”

It is unclear if morning programs could be reinstated if enrollment increases in site-specific programs. Bartlett said she doesn’t know that there is a mechanism in place, but also believes that decision hasn’t been made yet.

“Typically that is how RALLY has been operated in the past,” Bartlett said. “It’s all been based on enrollment. Once enrollment gets to a certain level staff can be added. That’s sort of how it is now. There are some waiting lists at schools, once a waiting list gets to a certain number — 15 — additional staff can be added. I don’t know if that would apply to the morning program.”

RALLY is state-licensed and serves children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The changes to the program will take effect Jan. 3, when students return from winter break.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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