I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Aiken Co. schools say no to YMCA after school program

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Aiken County Board of Education voted to stop using the YMCA as their after-school program provider Tuesday night after 30 years of service.

The school system voted to go with the Sunshine House after an anonymous seven-member panel evaluated the three different providers, including the YMCA.

Unlike the YMCA, the Sunshine House is a for-profit company.

Leadership at the YMCA and parents fear the costs of care will go up next school year when the Sunshine House takes over after-school program services.

The criteria for evaluating the programs was for Degree of Capability to perform services to the District’s expectations (50 pts), Price Proposal (30pts) and Experience providing similar services (20pts,) according to ACPSD Director of Communications, Merry Glenne Piccolino.

Jaqueline Lucas was one of the dozens of parents who signed letters in support of keeping the YMCA as the after-school provider for Aiken County schools.

Lucas and her husband work. She says the YMCA PrimeTime program was a remedy to finding childcare they can afford.

"It's extremely affordable. If you are on the free meal program at school it's like $35 dollars a week," said Lewis.

YMCA CEO Danny McConnell says affordability is their mission.

“In fact, two-thirds of the people in Aiken are on partial scholarships. If not, full scholarships. So, we help people. That didn't seem to matter a lot. What seemed to matter a lot was really the payments made to the system,” said McConnell.

Aiken County Schools posted to their website saying the Sunshine House scored the highest with the seven-member panel.

"The notification we saw on the website. After 30 years of service, not even a courtesy phone call after 30 years of service to say we are going somewhere else,” said McConnell.

The chart on the website, in some months, shows the Sunshine House bringing in nearly 10 times as much money as the YMCA for the Aiken County School District.

 

"I am worried about the families and kids. That I am not confident that if you take the program for a not-for-profit to a for-profit there are going to be some changes. One of those changes on my list is scholarships. Families that can't afford it may not be able to go,” said McConnell.

The YMCA gave the district a list of percentages showing how many of their students are on scholarship at their 10 sites. More than 51% in some schools and 100% at Ridge Spring Monetta.

News 12 asked Sunshine House what their fee schedule is and what scholarships they provide.

They told us: "Unfortunately, we are unable to comment at this time. However, you can certainly direct your questions to the Aiken County School District."

News 12 reached out to the Aiken County School District. Merry Piccolino, the director of communications for the Aiken County School District provided this statement:

This request was initiated solely to provide Aiken County Public School students with the very best, high-quality afterschool care available at an affordable price to students’ families. The current Request For Proposal (RFP) sourcing method utilized for competitive bidding in Aiken County Public Schools has been in use for more than 20 years.

As it relates to this RFP and our objective to provide a high quality and nurturing environment for students after school, the winning bidder will have to meet every stipulation of the RFP, including an approved pricing structure for Extended Day programming (Quest Zone/Sunshine House already provides Extended Day at a number of school). The proposal also makes available scholarships, price reductions and other necessary accommodations to families of low income.

The open proposal process is a competitive bid process and takes into account multiple factors at the behest of the requester. Pricing represents a single factor. Other factors requested in this specific RFP included providing service to the expectation of the District and the level of experience providing similar services. These criteria were clearly listed in order of importance to the requester (organizations interested in submitting an RFP). In review of this RFP, specifically, pricing was not the top criteria of importance to our District.

Following the completion of the RFP evaluation process, Sunshine House, or Quest Zone, finished with 600 points out of a 700 possible points, followed by AlphaBest with 553.5 points out of a possible 700 points, and The Family YMCA, or Prime Time, with 497 points out of a possible 700 points.

Our school district appreciates the mission of The Family Y and the positive impact the organization makes in our community. We very much look forward to additional opportunities for partnership with The Y in the future.

We asked the Aiken County Public School District how much the Sunshine House will charge and what scholarships they will offer, as well as for copies of the other RFP's considered and for the names of the evaluators.

The school district told us:

In accordance with V-5-c of the ACPSD Procurement Code, we are not at liberty to share documents leading to the tabulation until after the award is made and she hasn’t yet issued the Intent to Award to the potential awardee yet. Deborah will have additional details on when and what we are able to release according to our procedures and procurement code. I’ll find out those details and share that information with you.

"Families are happy with The Y program and being able to afford it. It saddens me it really does. Listen more to the people. Stop worrying about your pockets," said Lewis.