By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Bend Park and Recreation is considering a new lottery system for enrolling children in its popular Kids Inc. after-school program.
Parents of current Kids Inc. students received an email Friday outlining the plan, saying the lottery system “is intended to create a more equitable and less stressful method for registration for available space and is not intended to be a solution to meet all of the demand for afterschool care.”
According the the email: “Families will have 3 days to request enrollment for a child or multiple children in a household. At the conclusion of the 3-day request period, the BPRD registration system will randomly select participants for the school sites. Parents would be notified of status within 24-hours and then have 3 days to confirm their spot and pay fee.”
The lottery system would accommodate all the children in one household together so there wouldn’t be a case where one sibling would get in while another does not.
Due to the Bend-La Pine Schools’ change in start times last fall, which has elementary students starting class an hour earlier, Bend Park and Rec planned for a 50% increase in capacity at most of the 14 school sites to begin the 2019-20 school year.
This year more than 1,100 students are enrolled in the program, and more than 350 were on an initial waitlist at the start of the school year.
Sue Boettner, BPRD recreation services manager, said even with doubling their numbers, they weren’t able to meet everyone’s needs.
“At 5:37 a.m. (seven minutes after registration went live) we were full at 12 schools,” she said. “And parents were understandably frustrated.”
With so many people trying to sign up at the same time, it created some technical challenges for the district’s website.
“Additionally, Internet connections speeds are out of an individual’s control and there are potential issues with household accounts that prevent a person from registering,” according to BPRD.
Boettner said no system would make it possible for BPRD to enroll every child who wants to register.
“We’ll never be able to meet the demand for after-school care because of space and staffing,” she said. “It’s not great, it’s hard for everyone and I understand the frustration.”
She said Kids Inc. is a hard position to hire for because it’s not a full time job.
“We’re doing the best work we can do…so we thought we’d send this letter out and get some comments and regroup,” she said.
The district might decide to try the lottery, do nothing or, Boettner said, maybe someone out there has an outside-the-box idea that could be a game changer for the program.
BPRD is seeking input from parents who are enrolled or were waitlisted into the program this year.
The open comment period will run from February 18-28th to offer your thoughts on the proposed lottery system and any ideas you have to provide an equitable solution to last year’s issues.
They hope to make a decision in mid-March.
You can email your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org