With the new school year quickly approaching, Ramona Unified School District wants parents to be aware of the many options available through the district’s Extended Student Program (ESP), which offers childcare, homework, recreation, arts and crafts, and other services before and/or after school.
“Our program provides space, time, and homework help to support academic programs at school,” said Jan Crooks, ESP district program supervisor.
The program also offers games, sports, arts and crafts, afternoon snacks and allows students to explore their different interests,” Crooks said.
The “before school” session begins at 6:30 a.m. and runs until school starts. In the afternoon, the program runs from the end of school until 6:30 p.m. Parents have some flexibility when registering their children for the program as they can sign up for three days or five days a week. Children can also do “before only,” “after only” or both.
The fee structure varies, depending on the amount of days and hours.
Crooks said there is a sibling discount of 10 percent when signing up for the five-day “after” or “before and after” school program.
ESP also offers care for minimum days and non-student days during school recesses.
The program is held on the campuses of Barnett, Hanson, James Dukes and Mt. Woodson elementary schools and is available for children, grades K-6. Ramona Elementary School has its own program.
With a 1:15 staff to student ratio, Crooks said the staff is there “to support the children’s after-school time.”
David Ostermann, assistant superintendent of Ramona Unified School District, noted that the staffers are very qualified, ranging from 14 years experience on up. Many of the staffers have 20 to 25 years of experience, he said
”Our staff is a great staff, very experienced; they do a great job taking care of students. That’s one of the biggest pluses,” he said.
ESP is a self-supporting program, funded through fees, explained Ostermann. With enrollment in the program declining, however, the “healthy reserve” that had been built up in the program over the years has been decreasing, he said.
Ostermann attributes some of the drop in ESP participation to the overall declining enrollment in the school district. He said the district is down 600 students from its peak enrollment.
“That’s a whole elementary school,” he noted.
According to Crooks, ESP enrollment for the 2007-08 year was 220, while by the end of the 2008-09 school year, it was 155. A lot of people lost jobs and then didn’t need the childcare services, she said, citing another reason for the decline in participation.
To assist parents who had their children in ESP but had to take them out of the program due to a job loss, Ostermann said that, if a parent needs the student-care service to attend a job interview, the parent may call the ESP office. ESP will offer care free of charge so the parent can go to the interview. Hopefully, said Ostermann, the parent will get the job and be able to put the child back in the program.
“We’re trying to help out where we can,” he said.
Because ESP is funded through fees, the school district has had to adjust to the revenue loss by laying off staff or reducing employees’ hours.
“The staff is reduced in proportion to the decline in enrollment,” Crooks said.
Ostermann said the district is considering making ESP available to the Ramona Community School, which has two programs: K-12 independent study, and K-8 Montessori academy. The district is looking at options to transport students from the Ramona Community School to Hanson Elementary for the ESP program, he said.
Although registration for ESP is preferred before school starts Aug. 31, Ostermann said that, if parents want to enroll after school starts, they can give the ESP office a call and the staffers will work with them.
Parents can go online, said Crooks, to get the registration packets. The Web site is www.ramonausd.net. Click under “Departments and Services,” then click on “ESP,” followed by clicking on “site information.”
The fee schedule is available on the site information. A $40 family registration fee is required.