Parents push for summer program in Meadow Lake

by Sabine Gibbins

Bring back the summer program.

This is the message a group of determined individuals is urging the City of Meadow Lake to consider in response to the cancellation of a free summer program for children.

The Northwest School Division, which operated the program for a number of years, recently announced the cancellation, stating the decision came as a result of a new funding model imposed by the provincial Ministry of Education.

In response to this, the newly formed Parents Advocating for a Children’s Summer Program (PACSP) met May 10. A total of seven individuals attended the meeting, which was designed to brainstorm ideas on how to bring back a summer program, said PACSP member Andrea Fleck.

“Our number one concern is conveying our mandate to city council and engaging them in a way that they will want to help,” Fleck said.

The group attended the regular meeting of city council May 14 to present their opinions and encourage the city to look into forming a similar program. According to the minutes of the PACSP meeting, the group believes it is within the mandate and social responsibility of the city to implement a children’s summer program that is comparable to the one cancelled. Other cities, they state, run summer programs through their parks and recreation departments.

Although group members had approached city officials since the school division’s announcement and prior to the recent council meeting, Fleck said the city did not express interest in developing a summer program.

The decision to cut the program, commented Fleck, was very short notice for parents who now need to seek other arrangements for childcare during the summer holidays.

Through research, PACSP member Josey Loughins discovered cities such as Lloydminster and North Battleford have had successful, municipality-run children’s summer programs.

“This (NWSD) program was available to all children, but it was especially important to families who are in need,” Loughins said. “I feel I speak for our group when I say without the children’s summer program in Meadow Lake, our community will face consequences – many of our little citizens will go hungry, walk the streets unsupervised, and may even find themselves in trouble. The lack of sufficient summer planning for Meadow Lake’s children has an impact that will transcend the costs to children and families. It will affect the RCMP, Child and Family Services and businesses.”

While Fleck, who has two young children of her own, didn’t personally benefit from the summer program, she understands the challenges parents – and the community – are facing.

“The fact of the matter is, our schools really care about the kids,” she stated. “We live in a community where the schools know our kids matter, and in the past number of years, they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty. This is now a social storm. We have 100-120 kids without a reliable summer program who need that care back.”

PACSP’s mission includes encouraging the city to create a summer program, which would be available as a full-time weekday program for the duration of the summer months. This program, they say, should keep children safe by providing responsible supervision and trustworthy leadership, encouraging friendship, learning, physical activity, creativity, leadership, and social development. They believe the program should also provide healthy snacks, should consider providing lunches and should have a small registration fee or none at all.

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