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posted: 1/19/2012 5:30 AM

District 73 considers after-school, day care choices

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Child care choices for employees and parents has become a sticky issue in Hawthorn Elementary District 73.

Officials in the Vernon Hills-based district are considering options for the 2012-13 school year in what could eventually become a choice between a private enterprise that has been providing the service for more than 20 years and the Vernon Hills Park District, a public entity.

Administrators have recommended that nothing change in the short term as the district continues to evaluate space needs and welcomes a new superintendent for the next school year.

"Our recommendation is to pull back on these proposals and leave things alone," said Superintendent Sue Zook.

At issue is a possible change in who provides after-school and day care programs. Last summer, the district was considering buying or leasing a new building to expand programming and sent out a request for proposals for the services.

Afterschool Club based in Grayslake has provided day care for children up to 5 years old whose parents work at District 73, as well as day care for students through fifth grade in three-year contracts since 1990.

The company rents space from the district and parents pay for the services. About 200 school-age kids and about 30 up to age 5 use the service on a given day, according to David Lucas, president and owner.

The Vernon Hills Park District also responded to the request for proposals. But after it was determined the district would not be securing additional space, Zook said she recommended the status quo to address the big picture.

"They (school board) didn't agree with that. They said, `Contact the two vendors, amend the proposal,'" she said.

"Both vendors did a very nice job of addressing all the aspects of the proposal," Zook said. "This is not something like, `We have a broken mess that needed to be fixed.'"

Discussion of the issue was on the board's Jan. 9 nonvoting work session. Members of the park district attended the session and at one point were called upon to answer a question.

"We were not asked to attend. We just attended on our own," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the park district.

Afterschool was not there and was told if they did show up there wouldn't be a presentation, according to Lucas.

"We started getting emails from parents on the 10th saying, `You better get support,'" he said. Parents have been urged to attend Monday's school board meeting, where the company and the park district each will be given 10 minutes to make a presentation.

Zook said the board is scheduled to vote on her original recommendation to do nothing in the interim, meaning Afterschool would continue as the provider. No vote is scheduled Monday to approve the park district in its place.

"If they went with our recommendation, it wouldn't even be up for discussion," Zook said.

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