ROXBURY, NJ – The Roxbury School Board on Monday faced a barrage of criticism regarding its decision to have the school district offer a pre-school and after-school childcare program, services that have been provided for about 30 years by the Roxbury Day Care Center.
More than 150 people attended the board’s Nov. 18 meeting, where Roxbury Community Relations/Community School Coordinator Ann Rhodes gave a presentation on the matter. None who spoke said they supported the idea and many suggested the district was fixing something that wasn’t broken.
The district is calling its program the Before and After School Enrichment Services (BASES) and plans to have it start in the fall of 2020.
“You may be asking, ‘Why are we considering the switch,’” Rhodes said, noting that the change is part of the school board-approved “strategic plan” for the district.
Bringing it In-House
“One of the items that kept getting brought up was that of a district-run, in-district, before- and after-care program,” Rhodes said. “So, with that, the board of education and the administration made the decision to pursue that through the Roxbury Community School.”
She said bringing the program in-house will allow the district to “be able to serve more families, start-to-finish, while continuing those instructional services with staff to fill those educational gaps.” Rhodes also said it will provide the district with “an additional revenue stream, which is beneficial to the taxpayers of Roxbury.”
The Roxbury Day Care Center, a non-profit organization, operates its Before and After School Program (BASP) in all Roxbury elementary schools and in the Lincoln-Roosevelt School and has a current enrollment of 165.
Its director, Alicia Knight said the district’s move will likely force her to lay off most of the 23 people now working for the BASP. Rhodes said that the Roxbury Day Care Center staff will be able to apply for non-union positions at the new BASES, and she said the district plans to charge parents the same fees as those being charged by the BASP.
Despite Rhodes’ assurances that the move is for the better, those in the audience at Monday’s meeting expressed anger and suspicion. Among the opponents was Roxbury Councilman Richard Zoschak.
“My concern is, as a taxpayer, that it’s going to balloon (in price),” he told the board. “You have teachers here that eventually are going to go into the union. I can see it in the future ... Believe me. Things happen like that. It just scares me to let that happen.”
He also predicted that the move will likely be the beginning of the end for Roxbury Day Care Center.
“You’re going to put them out of business,” Zoschak said. “We’re not going to have Roxbury Day Care. Our Rotary Club built that place over there and put the kitchen in. We worked hard to raise money for that place, and we still keep it going. Every year we give them a stipend.”
Like 'A Family'
One of the main concerns expressed by parents of children now attending the BASP was the potential emotional distress the change might cause. A number of parents told the board that their children have come to love the Roxbury Day Care Center staff. Some, citing kids' need to play freely, said they feared a school-operated program would be too regimented and structured.
Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic told the crowd that she understands the district’s plan might evoke concern, but she said the change was discussed by the board and administration for many years and will be for the better in the long-run.
"Always coming with change is uncertainty,” Radulic said. “But I do believe that we’ve done enough research, and we’ve spent quite number of meetings and time on really making sure that we have all the information that we need to make an informed decision … I do believe its going to put us on a path to success.”
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