Aiken County parents upset with higher costs for new after school program

Monday, August 19, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Some Aiken County parents are frustrated as the school year begins due to higher costs for the new after school program.

Back in March, the Aiken County Board of Education voted to put after school care out for a bid. They chose Sunshine House to run the entire program. Previously, the YMCA, which is a nonprofit, and Sunshine House, which is for-profit, both provided after school services.

Parents say costs are higher after the change, and it's putting many in a tough spot.

"We had 200 response letters and support letters that were sent to us," said Danny McConnell, the president and CEO of the Family YMCA.

That's 200 complaints from parents. Higher costs was a concern for McConnell when he spoke with Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford earlier this year.

"When I sat there and talked about quality and mission and all the things we typically talk about with the YMCA, what we try to do with these children," McConnell said. "It didn't seem to matter. What I heard was, 'how much are you going to pay me?'"

The Family Y does not believe the change was made with children in mind.
Parents News 12 spoke to say the Aiken County School Board never even asked their opinion.

"I'm frustrated," said one parent who asked to remain anonymous. "I'm upset because we didn't have a choice."

She says her son goes to Sunshine House after school. From her perspective, the care is worse and the costs are going to add up. Parents are paying $54 a week for the new services. The YMCA is priced $4 cheaper.

"It's going to put me into a choice of me either letting him go to Questzone or either cutting my hours," said the parent.

For students on free and reduced lunch, the price disparity is even greater. Aftercare is $9 more expensive per week for those attending Sunshine House.

"It all boils down to we should be able to have who we want to keep our children," said the parent.

The YMCA still has two aftercare locations in Aiken and North Augusta available for families. However, the YMCA now has to bus the kids to those locations. North Augusta's location is already full. The Y says 90 percent of their students in Aiken are on scholarship as well.

We reached out to Aiken County Public Schools for comment on Monday afternoon, and they provided the following statement:

The Quest Zone/Sunshine House and Prime Time/The Family Y were both serving students in a number of schools throughout our District at the time this Request for Proposals (RFP) was initiated last year. The Request For Proposals for a single Extended Day Partnership was initiated solely to provide all Aiken County Public School students with the very best, high-quality afterschool care available at an affordable price to students’ families.

This Request For Proposal (RFP) sourcing method utilized for competitive bidding in Aiken County Public Schools has been in use for more than 20 years. 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.

The team comprised to serve on this RFP evaluation included two elementary school principals, one currently partnered with Quest Zone (Sunshine House) and the other with Prime Time (Family Y), a middle school principal who was without an Extended Day Program, as well as four district-level administrators.

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.

Reduced fees for students eligible for free and reduced lunch and a discount for Aiken County Public School employees are available. 32 Scholarships are also available. These official scholarships do not cap or limit the Sunshine House’s ability to work with additional families. Full and/or partial scholarships are always reviewed on a case-by-case basis in conference with the school principal or administration. The Quest Zone Afterschool Program has always worked with families experiencing financial difficulty to ensure their children were able to attend a safe, supervised program after the school day ends.