By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE — The Trussville City School Board of Education passed an agreement with the YMCA of Greater Birmingham to create a summer day camp program. The YMCA program will replace the TCS summer program.
The plans were approved as part of the consent agenda at the January 2020 Board of Education meeting. Dr. Mandi Logan, Superintendent of Student Support Services, discussed the program during a work session for the board in December.
“It’s going to cover a multitude of needs that we have,” said Logan. “We’re just excited about the level of the programming.”
Several parents of children in Trussville are unhappy about the change. They believe the quality of the summer program could suffer.
Cheryl Hannum has a child that has been a part of the Trussville City Schools summer program for several years. Hannum said programs available through TCS was one of the main reasons her family moved to Trussville.
“They tout the school system and the benefits and we love it here,” said Hannum. “That’s why we do what we do to live here, so our child can be involved in that school system.”
The TCS program only served students who attended Magnolia, Cahaba or Paine Elementary Schools. In 2019, 124 students attended the program: 34 at Cahaba, 43 at Magnolia and 37 at Paine. The YMCA program is expecting to have around 180 students this year but says it is equipped to handle more if needed.
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE
The day camp will be held for rising first through sixth-graders in the Trussville area, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Any child who would be allowed to attend the YMCA will be allowed to attend the day camp program, regardless of their residence. This includes students from Pinson, Clay, Center Point, Springville and surrounding locations.
Not all parents are pleased with adding students from outside of Trussville.
“It’s going to be upwards of 180 students all together,” Hannum said. “No! No! The mixing of all ages throughout the day is not appropriate.”
Hannum also said she is concerned that the program will no longer be a TCS program.
“This is not just Trussville City Schools,” Hannum explained. “They are allowing all families in surrounding cities, in surrounding areas, to be involved in this program if they choose to sign up for it. So, I’m sorry. I don’t want that.”
Hannum said that over the years, her child has built trusting relationships with people in Trussville.
“My child knows her classmates and her friends and her school,” Hannum continued. “She’s comfortable with that, she knows that. So now you’ve got the YMCA basically renting out Paine and its facilities, so it’s not a Trussville City School program anymore. I’m not comfortable with that environment for my child. I don’t want it.”
WHAT WILL BE OFFERED
Students in the program will have access to the amphitheater, outdoor green space, cafeteria, gymnasium, computer labs and classroom space at Paine Elementary School. YMCA Youth Development Director Rhonda Elmore said campers will take part in arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor activity, and STEM activities. She said the YMCA Day Camp will be in lieu of the school system’s summer program.
“We try to infuse education into everything we do at the Y,” said Elmore. “We like to call it ‘disguised learning.'”
Campers will also be taken to the YMCA’s indoor swimming pool once a week. They will also be given the opportunity to choose some of the activities in which they would like to participate.
“Students will learn how to collaborate and solve problems,” said Elmore. “While we’re not offering formal education, we will be offering skills that every child needs for success in life.”
The education, enrichment and field trips are among the offerings Hannum said made the TCS program so valuable. Although she hopes the YMCA will provide the same, she said she isn’t sure if that will happen.
“We have not had positive experiences with the YMCA Trussville Aftercare/Summer Camp Programs,” Hannum explained. “That’s why we chose not to put our child there.”
WHY THE CHANGE
The reason for the change is that the Y was running out of room for all the students involved in its summer program. The YMCA will pay the school system $3,200 to use the space for the summer. The fee will cover maintenance, facility supplies and cleaning.
“It will be their program,” said Logan. “Think about it as renting our facility.”
The agreement states that the YMCA is responsible for staffing and programming. Trussville City Schools is responsible for providing access to the internet and for maintenance and custodial services at Paine.
As part of the agreement between TCS and the YMCA, the YMCA must be able to provide records showing all YMCA employees working for the program passed criminal background checks. Employees over 19 must also pass the Alabama Department of Human Resources Child Abuse and Neglect Clearance.
COST OF YMCA SUMMER DAY CAMP
The cost of the YMCA program is more than the previous summer program with Trussville City Schools. Elmore said that’s because of the quality of programming being offered.
“We are investing a lot into our programming and the type of program that we do just costs a little bit more,” said Elmore. “We are also investing in our staff.”
Hannum and other parents have said they are also concerned with the potential staff to student ratio. The YMCA requires the staff to student ratio to stay below 1:15 in the summer program.
The cost of the program is $135 per week, plus a $35 registration fee. Parents can choose which weeks their children will participate in the day camp. Elmore said there is assistance for those who cannot afford the program.
“We’re able to offer scholarships to families who qualify, so anyone who can’t afford the program can apply for scholarships,” said Elmore.
The YMCA will not use the kitchen at Paine Elementary and all students must bring their own lunch.
The cost of the previous program offered by Trussville City Schools was $90 per week for one child and $70 per additional child. There was also a $45 registration fee.
Hannum said her family is considering other options.
“What upsets us the most is that it was done almost in a sneaky way,” Hannum said. “Why would they not have mentioned it? Why would they not have done some type of survey and gotten some type of feedback? Maybe they would’ve seen why parents have not chosen the YMCA and I have a feeling that would have affected their decision. If I wanted my child to be going to the YMCA Summer Camp, my child would be going to the YMCA Summer Camp.”
Former TCS Summer Program Director Hal Riddle said all the workers from the TCS program are being given the opportunity to apply for the YMCA Summer Program and he said they were promised an interview.