On Thursday, the Albemarle County School Board is slated to consider a proposal from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia to build a new after-school center next to Jack Jouett Middle School.
For more than a year, leaders of the local Boys & Girls Clubs and county schools staff have discussed whether the nonprofit could build a new center on school property to serve more children in the school division’s northern feeder pattern.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia currently runs an after-school program in the Jouett school building and serves over 200 middle school students there per year.
A press release from Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia CEO James Pierce said hundreds of elementary school children in Albemarle’s urban ring would take advantage of a new club’s after school and summer programming.
“We look forward to working with the Albemarle County School Board to explore the possibilities of a public-private partnership that we are confident will result in a win-win for area young people, and ultimately, for our entire community,” Pierce wrote.
Dean Tistadt, chief operating officer of the county school division, said the main challenge of opening a new Boys & Girls Club is making it accessible to children with limited transportation options.
“Boys & Girls Clubs members attend on a daily basis; it’s challenging to get buses when you don’t know when kids will or won’t go,” Tistadt said. “This led us to start conversations about creating a club within walking distance of their schools.”
This year, the School Board authorized Tistadt to determine whether an appropriate location could be found on the contiguous campuses of Albemarle High, Jouett Middle and Greer Elementary schools.
Tistadt said the best site for a Boys & Girls Club at the schools complex is the current site of the driver education course between Jouett and AHS.
“We are going to report to the School Board that this is the only site on the campus that makes any sense,” Tistadt said.
A staff report to the School Board recommends the driver education course over several other possible locations due to its flat topography, access to utilities, and its proximity to the younger students at Greer. The site also required the least tree removal.
The report adds that a planned shared-use trail connecting Greer and Jouett to Hydraulic Road and AHS would allow students to walk to the club safely. The trail is included in the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s tentative list of Transportation Alternatives projects for 2019-2020.
In 2003, the city of Charlottesville agreed to let the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia construct its Cherry Avenue club on the Buford Middle School campus. Tistadt said this arrangement would serve as the model for the Jouett club.
Charlottesville’s 40-year lease for the Cherry Avenue Club charges a nominal rent of $1 per year. The lease agreement expresses the mutual intent of Boys & Girls Clubs and Charlottesville City Schools to promote shared use of their facilities.
Tistadt said the proposed Boys & Girls Club’s facilities would be open to physical education classes during the school day and could host professional development for teachers and staff.
The standalone Jouett club building could serve families who are on wait lists for the after-school programs at their schools or unable to afford them.
Albemarle County’s Extended Day Enrichment Program is required to be self-sustained with tuition revenues. Tuition for EDEP during the 180-day school year was set at $2,070 for the current school year.
In 2016, the School Board received an evaluation of EDEP by division staff that concluded the after-school program was not accessible to economically disadvantaged students.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, enrollment in EDEP at Greer — where nearly 75 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches — was significantly lower than at smaller elementary schools with fewer economically disadvantaged students.
“Even though EDEP tuition is not huge, it still leaves out a lot of students,” said School Board Chairwoman Kate Acuff.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia charges an annual membership fee of $35.
Acuff said she hoped EDEP and the proposed Boys & Girls Club would jointly plan some of their enrichment activities to prevent the programs from separating children of different income levels.
Tistadt said he will ask the School Board on Thursday to authorize staff to conduct a more thorough analysis of the driver education program and the potential impact of eliminating the driving course.
The course includes curved roads, intersections and signs that give AHS students more realistic off-road training.
“The School Board has to have a clear understanding of the advantages of the site for the driver training program, and decide what would be the greater loss or benefit,” Tistadt said.