Kids Club must move

Space crunch prompts Bainbridge school district to take back property.

The only before and after-school program on the island for third through sixth grade is being forced to vacate its current home.

Kids Club, which operates out of portable classes owned by the Bainbridge Island School District, has an enrollment of about 100 children. The two portables currently utilized by the club are behind Commodore Middle School on the district’s main campus.

Club members and staff must now move for the second time this year due to the district’s need for more space.

It’s a stressful issue for staff, parents and children, said Shelley Long, executive director for Bainbridge Island Child Care Centers, which runs Kids Club, among other programs.

“We need time to build a vision,” Long said. “We need an interim place so we can safely and effectively place these kids. We are working as frantically and as fast as we can. The board and I are absolutely vested and committed to doing this. We’re looking for a solution.”

The news came during the last school board meeting.

New state mandates and increasing enrollment numbers for kindergarten students are the factors increasing demand for classrooms, Tamela Van Winkle, capital projects director for the district, told the school board last week. Additionally, the district is expanding educational programs such as STEM and Spanish immersion classes.

The portables are valuable space for a district with limited buildings. The portables will be moved this summer to Ordway Elementary.

“The district has made every effort over the past several years to postpone the need to access this square footage,” Van Winkle stated in a memo to the board. “All creative avenues for relocation have been exhausted. Legally, the district does not have the option of publicly funding additional building space for programs outside of school district programs.”

Van Winkle was unavailable for comment prior to the Review’s press deadline.

While the process of finding an entire new space is frustrating, Long said she is grateful to the district for allowing some time for transition.

But by June 30, everyone must be moved out of the Kids Club portables. There will be no lapse in childcare as the district is allowing the club to use the Ordway gym until the end of August.

Once August comes, the club will have to move along. If a building cannot be found by the time school starts, about 100 children will have no place to go prior to the school day starting, Long said.

The move is especially exhausting for all involved. Earlier this year, the club moved from another rented district site when the district reclaimed that facility. It took three months for Long to get the new space relicensed.

Now, she has to do it all over again for Kids Club, and, perhaps, Big Kids, which is for kids in kindergarten through second grade.

Big Kids is also operated out of a building leased by the club from the district, an agreement that should last for a few years.

Long said the district has already let her know that that space may be needed as well.

The one building that seems to be safe from a forced move is the one that Bainbridge Island Child Care Centers owns outright, a preschool on the island.

Despite the upset in routine and space, Long said parents have been supportive but also concerned. She hopes to remedy that by finding a good space quickly. Once a building is found, a capital fund project may be started.

“Our ideal location would be to put both programs in a place that long term we don’t have to be taken away from — whether it’s a rental or something that we own. We are looking for a long-term program.”

She added, “It’s hard on parents, staff and kids.”

Ideally, Long is seeking a place near the central campus where the current club runs. That would allow for easy access to the pools, and after-school activities.

“We just need a space that the state would agree that we could be licensed under,” she said. “We need 30 square feet per child. If we could get that, we’d be extremely grateful.”

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