TOWNSEND -- Summer means many things. For kids, it can be all about having fun. Parents want their children to be safe and perhaps to learn a few things too.
The organizers of the summer recreation program at Hawthorne Brook Middle School try to provide this. They also want to fill these desires at a good price and still break even. "We're a nonprofit but we still have to cover expenses," said Director Emy Hoff.
The Recreation Commission met to address the challenge March 13. This is the first year that Hoff will direct the summer program that offers full and half days and permits children from other communities to join.
The program offers sports and crafts activities, field trips and special events. Some of the activities are included in the program fee, others, usually the field trips, have an additional cost.
In 2011, the summer rec program did not break even. "Last year we grossly misjudged our staff/child ratio," said Commissioner Sharon Whittier.
The program needs to have one staff member on duty for each ten children, Hoff said, and there are a few things the program can do to keep the staff numbers down but still hit the requirement.
Until now, families have been allowed to send children to the program on a day-to-day drop-off basis. Instead, if families purchased five day passes, the recreation commission would have a better idea of the probable numbers of children and could hire based on these predictions, Hoff said.
Requiring passes would also mean less paperwork. Keeping track of the children in attendance is mandatory and is made more difficult if paperwork needs to be completed at drop off.
Less paperwork means more face time. "We're actually taking away from the time we should be doing activities with the kids," Hoff said. "I really want to separate this from summer child care. It's summer rec," she said.
The young counselors should only be working about 20 hours a week, Hoff said. If they are well-trained and interested in their job, they can fill the needs of the children in the program in that time.
"There is no way a 15-year-old is going to be hopped up and happy after the third week of 40 hours," Hoff said. She suggested cutting hours, rather than cutting staff number.
Potentially, counselors could work for either the morning or afternoon session with a half hour overlap to brief the next shift. "We need to be able to touch base," Assistant Director Chris Doherty.
Generating more revenue will also help with the bottom line. Last year, families ended up paying approximately $1.64 per child per hour to attend the program, Hoff said. She suggested raising that amount slightly to cover more expenses.
Optional classes can be taught during the day. Children not enrolled in the rec program could take these classes for a fee. Children attending the program would be charged a smaller additional fee if they opt to take the class, Hoff said. Other rec programming would be offered for those not taking the special class.
Costs for field trips, paid for by the families, could be reduced by going to lower cost venues that are more local. Using a different transportation company might be less expensive, the director said.
The facilities available at the school will also be different this summer. The summer rec program will not have the use of the big field but can use the renovated tennis courts, basketball court, valley ball pit and the new field near these courts, Commissioner Rick Corsini said.
The program will run between July 1 and Aug. 9, with two days off for the July 4 holiday. Full and half day programs will be available. The commissioners are still discussing fees and hours.