On Wednesday, July 21, the Recreation Commission Meeting met over Zoom to discuss recent changes and updates to Piedmont Recreation Department programming.
Recreation Supervisor Jackson Stearns reported on upcoming changes to the Schoolmates program for the 2021-2022 school year. By cutting back to 20 hours a week, Schoolmates will become a “license exempt” program, allowing for more flexibility in staffing and a greater capacity to serve more children.
Becoming license exempt will have two beneficial impacts on the Schoolmates program, Stearns said. First, child care licensing requires that employees have specific educational backgrounds related to teaching. By becoming license exempt, Schoolmates will be able to hire employees who are strong candidates with backgrounds in child care but who do not meet the narrow educational requirements.
Second, Schoolmates will be able to serve more children in its programs by becoming license exempt. Licensing required Schoolmates to have a strict capacity for the number of children the program could serve each day. This meant that in the past, when drop-ins were allowed, staff members were forced to decide between turning children away or going over official capacity. Schoolmates will now be able to increase its capacity while still maintaining numbers below fire marshal room capacity rules.
Although Schoolmates is officially becoming license exempt, Stearns and Recreation Director Chelle Putzer emphasized that they will continue to hold the program to the highest standards of safety. All other licensing requirements and safety protocols will remain in place.
Other updates from the Recreation Commission Meeting include welcoming two new recreation supervisors, Katrina Morris and Eva Phalen.
Katrina Morris has worked in Piedmont since 2004 and has been promoted to the supervisor position to oversee preschool programs and Schoolmates. Putzer commended Morris for her creativity, passion, and natural leadership qualities.
Eva Phalen was recently hired in June from Albany to focus on inclusion programming in the city. In only a month, Phalen has jumped into programming by creating the Try (It) Out Tuesdays series for girls in sports and by helping to update PRD’s Fall Activity Guide.