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Coaches' Camp after-school program may leave San Antonio Elementary

Aiden Kinney, 7, eyes his target during a recent activity at the Coaches’ Camp after-school program at San Antonio Elementary.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Aiden Kinney, 7, eyes his target during a recent activity at the Coaches’ Camp after-school program at San Antonio Elementary.

SAN ANTONIO — For more than a month, parents who send their children a popular teacher-run after-school camp at San Antonio Elementary School have tried to keep the school district from kicking it off the campus.

They have one last chance ahead.

As expected, superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended expanding the district's own before- and after-school program, called Place, into San Antonio Elementary next fall.

Such a move would bump the Coaches' Camp out.

The School Board is scheduled to consider her proposal Tuesday.

"We have 48 parents who have expressed an interest in Place at San Antonio, so we have significant numbers to justify opening it," assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly said Wednesday. "In the past, we have not had sufficient numbers."

The district currently buses 29 San Antonio children to Place at Pasco Elementary.

Low interest in Place at San Antonio provided an opportunity for physical education teachers J.J. Scaglione and Bobby Wade to introduce their own program for before- and after-school care. They quickly developed a passionate following.

Parents said they like that the coaches — both certified teachers — provide homework help and organized physical activity for their children. Place, they said, doesn't offer the same level of service.

The Coaches Camp charges $50 a week, while Place now costs parents $37 a week — a fee that could increase by $3.

When the issue first arose publicly in March, School Board members responded to the parents' concerns by saying they wanted to find out whether the district could make its after-school programs more like Coaches' Camp rather than forcing the popular camp to find an alternate location.

Since then, Fiorentino's staff has met several times to discuss improving Place. They have come up with proposals to increase the attention given to homework, Reilly said.

Scaglione said he already has received word from the district that the chances of getting Coaches' Camp a renewed contract to use the school are low. But he also recognized that the School Board has at least three members who have gone on record in support of the program.

"The decision isn't written in stone right now," Scaglione said. "Our parents are still advocating for us to have it at our school. The School Board members seem to be advocating the same."

Perhaps, he said, the teachers and the district can work out an arrangement that satisfies everyone. Otherwise, he said, the camp — and most likely all its families — will move to nearby Sacred Heart Church.

Tami Bentley hopes the camp will stay at the school. Because she works in Dade City, getting her daughter Molly to and from the church would prove too difficult.

And she does not want to send Molly to Place.

So Bentley plans to organize families for one more pass at the School Board before the fix is in.

"I'm not giving up yet," she said. "My mission over the next few days is to collect the parents to come on Tuesday. I need child care. And I'm not willing to settle for just anything."

Board member Kathryn Starkey said what happens on Tuesday will make a difference, at least for her vote. She has yet to be convinced that expanding Place is the best option.

"I want to hear what's going on," Starkey said. "I'm not going to make any decision until I see all the research and hear all the facts."

The board is set to have a workshop on Place beginning at 2 p.m. Tuesday. It is scheduled to act on the superintendent's recommendations during the meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Coaches' Camp after-school program may leave San Antonio Elementary 04/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 9:24pm]
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