BELLOWS FALLS -- The Y-ASPIRE program of the Meeting Waters YMCA will start being held at Central Elementary School in the fall, following the Rockingham School Board's approval of an agreement with the organization's local chapter on Monday.
After-School Program for Inspiration, Recreation & Education (ASPIRE) is a program available throughout the academic year to teach children healthy living and social responsibility. Dr. Vernon Temple, the president of the Meeting Waters YMCA, said the program can be utilized by the youth and families from Central Elementary, Saxtons River Elementary School and the fifth grade of Bellows Falls Middle School. He said the program runs during all school vacations, except for summer break, when the YMCA's day camp begins.
"It's there for the children when the parents are working after school," Temple told the Reformer. "It's not just daycare. It has specific goals to teach them social responsibility and governance. They work on homework and healthful living."
Y-ASPIRE will move from the Meeting Waters YMCA's program center on Atkinson Street to Central Elementary School because the old building is becoming more difficult to maintain. Executive Director Steve Fortier said it is no longer worth investing money into the facility, at least for the Meeting Waters YMCA's purposes. He said moving Y-ASPIRE allows for the opportunity to have more options for the future of the Atkinson Street building, which he mentioned was built in 1835 and also holds offices for Meeting Waters' three full-time employees.
Fortier said Y-ASPIRE will enter its 17th year in the fall.
He told the Reformer the program consists of 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity, followed by a healthy snack and beverage. Fortier said there is also assisted homework time, but the heart of the program is a group project that focuses on a monthly theme that could be anything from social justice to environmentalism. Parents can chose three-, four- or five-day options and pick-up times of either before 5 p.m. or between 5 and 6 o'clock. Fortier said fees are "sliced and diced" depending on the option length and pick-up time of a child.
Y-ASPIRE comes at no cost to taxpayers, he said.
Rockingham School Board Chairman Jim "Jiggs" McAuliffe said Windham Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Chris Kibbe teamed with Keith Nemlich, first-year principal of Central Elementary School, to explore the possibility of moving Y-ASPIRE to the school. Kibbe previously told the Reformer there were an assortment of factors that needed to be taken into account.
"We would have people who are not employed by the school district inside the building and then there are all the other functions such as special ed meetings. The principal has to manage the school and now the Y is talking about adding another level of management," he is quoted as saying.
Kibbe also told the Reformer that though the program is held in schools throughout the county, some studies indicate after-school programs have better attendance rates if they take place in a non-school setting.
McAuliffe said Thursday that his entire board felt it was important to keep Y-ASPIRE in Bellows Falls because of the nutritional and academic benefits it offers.
"So we encouraged Superintendent Kibbe and Principal Keith Nemlich to work with the YMCA," he said.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.