CITY POISED TO OUTSOURCE ITS AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM
The City of Highland Park is poised to hire Family Network to manage its after-school program for middle schoolers when the program is relocated this fall from a repurposed fire station to the Highland Park Community House at 1991 Sheridan Road.
Family Network, a presence in the Highland Park community for more than two decades, was selected based on experience, budget management and the program’s “home-away-from-home” approach, according to the city. Since 2004, Family Network has run the After School Activity Program, which serves youngsters in kindergarten through fifth grade from five elementary schools in Highland Park.
Currently, the Fire House program serves about 15 to 20 kids in grades six through eight each day. The students arrive by bus from North Shore District 112’s three middle schools or drop in on their own.
City officials cite the potential to expand the middle school program at the spacious location on the lower level of the Highland Park Community House, which is owned by the city and managed by a separate nonprofit. Moreover, the Fire House Activity Center, which dates to 1940, is in need of $175,000 in repairs in 2015 if the facility remains open. The projected $1.2 million cost of continuing to operate the Fire House program at its current location equates to about $12,200 per student, based on the small numbers currently using the program.
Students from Northwood Junior High and Edgewood Middle School will be bused to the new location, which is directly across the street from Elm Place Middle School.
According to the city, Family Network will keep the relaxed “clubhouse” atmosphere that has characterized the Fire House program, which allows students to unwind at the end of the school day. Plans call for moving the furniture, pool table, video and board games, air hockey and football tables to the new location along with study-room supplies and equipment.
As was the case at the Fire House, the program will run from 2:40 to 6 p.m. on regular school days and start earlier — at 12:25 p.m. — on days when school is dismissed early.
The city’s timetable calls for moving the after-school program out of the Fire House and into the Highland Park Community House during Thanksgiving week, when North Shore District 112 schools are closed in advance of the holiday weekend for conferences. Family Network would take over Jan. 5, 2015, with the city providing transitional support.
A formal agreement between the city, Family Network and the Highland Park Community House is set to be voted on Monday by the Highland Park City Council. Under the pact, set to run through mid-2017, the city will pay Family Network $49,000 a year to run the program and pay the Highland Park Community House $8,000 in rent.
The Fire House has been home to a city youth center since the late 1970s, when it was moved from its original site on Green Bay Road down a hill to a corner of Sunset Woods Park. During peak enrollment in the late 1990s, the center had about 800 members of middle-school and high-school age. As many as 50 would stop by the center on weekdays, and as many as 100 on Saturdays.