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Decision Due on After-school Plan: Montpelier School District Weighs 4 Bids for Child Care

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By Tom Brown

The bids are in, and the next provider of licensed after-school programs for students in kindergarten through sixth grade should be chosen by early May, Montpelier school officials say.

The Montpelier-Roxbury School District received four proposals, including a bid from the current provider, Community Connections, which had performed those services for more than a decade. Some parents were not pleased early this year when the district decided to put the contract out for bids in an attempt to increase the number of students who could participate in the program.

Proposals were received from Community Connections, the Montpelier Recreation Department, the After School Collaborative, and the YMCA organization. The bids will be evaluated by an advisory committee that includes school board members and parents at a public meeting at noon on Thursday, April 25, at Union Elementary School. The committee will score each of the bids and forward its recommendation to Superintendent Libby Bonesteel, who will make the final selection.

The district will pay the winning provider $37,338 in FY 20 to provide “students, ages 5–14, with safe, engaging, high quality, and affordable programming after the school day,” according to the district’s request for proposals. Last year the district paid $36,000 to Community Connections. Community Connections is under the auspices of the Washington Central Supervisory Union (WCSU), which governs the U-32 district schools. The City of Montpelier separately contributes $5,000 for the services. These allocations are in addition to fees paid by families enrolled in the program.

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School officials said the competitive bid process was opened because it wants more capacity for student enrollment, more flexibility in after-school programs, and extended-day enrichment at both UES and the Main Street Middle School. Bonesteel said Community Connections is licensed for 69 students a day at UES and, with increasing enrollment, the district’s RFP requires the bidder to serve at least 85 students a day at UES and 40 at MSMS. There are 432 students at UES and 365 at MSMS.

Bonesteel said she was concerned that fifth- and sixth-graders, who are not necessarily old enough to be left alone after school, were not being well-served by the current limit of 25 unlicensed slots provided by Community Connections at MSMS. There are 95 fifth-graders currently at MSMS, Bonesteel said.

The district would like to achieve greater collaboration with the after-school provider and also hopes to add a position for an extended day enrichment provider to help form a bridge for older students between middle and high school.

“We want to grow that opportunity for kids within our own system and put the weight of the district behind it so that we can grow it, sustain it, and make it something top notch in the state,” Bonesteel said.

Bonesteel, who has acknowledged missteps in the early handling of the change to competitive bid, said she understands parents’ concerns over possibly replacing an organization like Community Connections, and hopes families will be pleased with whichever bid is chosen.

“Our goal is to choose the program that is going to be the most engaging for our kindergarten through sixth-graders,” she said.

A link to the proposals can be found online at: mrpsvt.org/afterschool-parent-forum