Summer rec program is backWhen Newport City Council members axed the city’s summer park program for youth earlier this year, Lori Kupfer was incensed — and dejected.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
When Newport City Council members axed the city’s summer park program for youth earlier this year, Lori Kupfer was incensed — and dejected. There was just no way, thought the Newport mother and childcare provider, the beleaguered program would return.
But city council members have retreated this month on their earlier decision to nix the structured children’s program, agreeing to fund a slimmed down summer rec in 2009 after Kupfer led a push to save it.
“I was really pleased with the outcome for the kids,” Kupfer said. “It’s not myself I’m advocating for.”
Newport will fund a two-day per week, two-session per day program up to $4,500 for summer 2009, and will more accurately track attendance and receive updates on what parents think of the altered program.
“I think there was a feeling the past few years that the program went downhill a little bit,” said mayor Tim Geraghty, adding he believed there were things the city could do to reverse that trend.
Kupfer had told the council in public forums and in a one-on-one meeting with Geraghty that she felt the program had been poorly run in recent summers, a major factor, she said, in the drooping attendance numbers that council members cited when eliminating its funding earlier this year.
She said more attentive staff and better, more consistent programming would revive interest in the program. Fewer sessions each week — two, down from four — will also help.
A block of hours for younger children in the morning and one for older, pre-teen kids in the afternoon “cut the fat,” Kupfer said. “The rest of it was pretty much waste.”
In a meeting earlier this month, council members debated a sign-up fee intended to further ensure high attendance. Parents would be more likely to get their kids to Pioneer Park each day, council members Tom Ingemann and Corb Hopkins agreed, if they had some small financial stake in the program.
“I tend to favor the idea that the participants have some buy-in on it,” Hopkins said. “That they invest in it, that they put some value in this program. If they’re investing in it, they’re inclined to get the most out of it.”
The council decided against the fee. That, too, was good news to Kupfer.
A registration fee would penalize some parents, she said, and prevent some families with more than one child from participating in the program.
“This is a poverty-stricken community; I don’t care how you spell it out or say it,” Kupfer said. “That’s why you see a drop in the (Newport Athletic Association) numbers. People can’t shell out those fees.”
The key to high participation numbers, Kupfer says, is a program worth attending.
“People would be more committed to the program if the program were better,” she said.