No breaks: Manchester City Schools considering making cuts to ESP program

During a work session held early Monday morning Carolyn Davidson, who heads up the Manchester City Schools Extended School Program, asked the Manchester School Board to consider shutting down the ESP program during the summer, fall and spring breaks. Davidson asked the board to consider opening ESP only during the school year, but not be open during the breaks due to dwindling and inconsistent program attendance.

Davidson explained that while available slots quickly fill during signups, the actual number of participants drop sharply during the breaks. “The main concern is the low attendance. We ask parents to signup, but they [often] do not keep their commitment.” She said that based on the number of people signed up plans are made concerning staff, supplies and activities. “It hurts me to send a worker home, due to the parents not keeping their commitment,” Davidson said. According to Davidson, many of the ESP personnel are college students and substitute teachers looking to supplement their income. “I don’t think it’s fair to send them home. I try to keep them for at least four hours.” According to state requirements, an ESP worker can oversee 20 children. But usually more that two workers must be scheduled due to the need to divide age groups and to provide extra supervision in the case one must leave for an accident. “When we have fewer than 25 children attend and I have my whole staff come in, we’re losing money,” Davidson said. Some argue that the program is a big help for parents – especially those who work – by offering affordable, quality care. “Working parents rely on this option,” said local resident Lauren Riddle Pickering. “I hope they continue this program during school breaks.”

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Davidson said that ESP is a nonprofit, self-supporting program. “We’re not in it to make money, but we are in it to have a good quality program. We want to be a good service, and we are.” Currently, ESP operates on the regularly scheduled school days before and after school and on designated full days when school is not in session and during the summer months. “ESP is open basically for the whole month of June.” Davidson said that the program attendance peaks for the middle weeks and wanes early in July. The ESP program is limited to the capacity of the system’s school bus, which it provides along with campus facilities for the program. The cost of the city schools’ program is $25 per week during school and $50 each week during the summer. The price is inclusive, including fieldtrips and occasional meals… Read the complete, in-depth story in this week’s (April 3) print edition of the Manchester Times.

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