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Friday, December 23, 2005

The Parks and Rec Bombshell

by Chris Brooks | Link to this post

We posted Tuesday a heads-up about the adverse effects the proposed year-round calendar will have on summer activities of Williamson County Parks and Recreation, WCPR. Here's "the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey might say.

Recently, I spoke with a representative from WCPR and asked the direct question, "How would Williamson County Schools moving to a balanced calendar affect WCPR?"

The first part of the answer was what I expected, lower overall summer attendance and lots of trouble hiring lifeguards and other help for the summer.

But then came the bomb.

WCPR houses eight of its summer programs in Williamson County school buildings. Under the current calendar those WCPR programs run for eight weeks. If the school system changed to the proposed "balanced" calendar, with teachers and school staffs returning to work on July 13, the summer programs offered by Parks and Recreation would be cut back to no more than five weeks - or even less.

Here are the programs affected:
Summer Fun Day Camp. The Summer Camp program is a 7 week program for children ages 5 (must be turning 6 by September) to 12. Camp is held at 8 Williamson County Schools making it accessible for nearly everyone. Children are kept busy Monday through Friday with such great activities as Arts & Crafts, Shaving Cream Fights, Scavenger Hunts, Indoor and Outdoor Games, Fun Themes and fabulous Field Trips.

(Junior Excursion Adventure Program)J.E.A.P.'s is a unique program offered to young teens ages 12 to 15. This year-round program offers day, evening and the occasional overnight trip to participate in exciting adventures such as white-water rafting, canoeing, camping, climbing ropes courses, exploring creeks, caving and much more.
You might ask yourself, "What's the big deal, my kids will be back in school". Not if they're home schooled, attend private school, or are younger kids in a day care program.

This is just one example of the widespread impact of our school system moving to a balanced (that is, year-round) calendar. Many of those WCPR programs offer kids of all ages summer learning experiences that they can't get anywhere else.

One of the key selling points by the WCS Central Office for the year-round calendar is that it's supposed to offer "flexibility" and expand opportunities for students. Yet the calendar's effects on WCPR's summer programs clearly decreases "flexibility" and takes opportunities away. Members of the Citizens Calendar Committee have been advising the School Board of this kind of problem for more than a month! Are they listening? Please ask them that question - click here!

I also asked WCPR whether anyone representing Williamson County Schools had consulted with WCPR about the effect of the calendar on WCPR's valuable summer opportunities. The answer: "No one from Williamson County Schools has ever contacted me about this change."

Why wouldn't Parks and Recreation, such a significant contributor to the excellent quality of life in Williamson County, not be consulted when a change of this magnitude is being proposed? As we pointed out to the School Board on Nov. 21,
The proposed calendar affects far more than teachers, administrators and school families. It is a profound mistake to see this proposed calendar as simply a schools issue.

This calendar will affect almost every aspect of life in Williamson County, including businesses, churches, preschools and summer programs. All of these activities, as well as many business-revenue cycles, are tied closely to the existing calendar.

This proposal is not just another item on the to-do list for the Board. It is tremendous in scope and needs to be treated that way.
Yes, indeed. I respectfully suggest that we all insist our director of schools, Dr. Rebecca Sharber, answer why her office hasn't consulted with WCPR on the calendar's effects. Dr. Sharber told the Williamson AM that she wanted to start a "conversation" about the calendar. So why was there no conversation with parks and rec managers?


Anonymous said...

Since when did the Director of Schools run Williamson County--shouldn't a change of this magnitude--effecting so many differnt city/county departments go before the Mayor and County Commission?

12/23/2005 7:53 PM  
Anonymous said...

I agree. A change of this magnitude should be voted on by ALL taxpayers of Williamson County.

12/27/2005 6:25 PM  
Anonymous said...

Great idea! I have a friend with a 2 yr old who would love to vote about it!

They called about 15,000 WC student homes. Williamson Cty has about 150,500 residents. So 10% were called (15998). I think that means about 7-8% of the Willlaims County tax payers responded yes or no. That is a very small amount for such a huge change!

12/28/2005 8:37 AM  
Anonymous said...

Could it be that the teachers will be paid more because of this year-round calendar? Will we not have to pay them for these short breaks?; and or are they not to be paid when the kids aren't at school. Maybe this is why Ms. Sharber is saying the teachers are for it because they are all going to get a raise? I haven't heard anyone say,,,yet.

12/28/2005 5:32 PM  
Anonymous said...

If Mrs. Sharber has fully researched other school systems with YRS (and she certainly should have before now), she must know the answer to the teacher salary question. In fact, she suggested that she didn't know about any increased costs associated with the calendar change. Have YRS systems provided raises to compensate teachers for work spread out over almost the entire calendar? The School Board and the County Commission should demand the answer to this question.

12/31/2005 1:15 AM  

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