Kids Club staff still seeking new home

Shelley Long doesn’t want to close the doors of Bainbridge Island’s Kids Club. But, if the executive director of Bainbridge Island Child Care Centers, which runs the club, cannot find appropriate space soon, that’s exactly what will happen.

Shelley Long doesn’t want to close the doors of Bainbridge Island’s Kids Club.

But, if the executive director of Bainbridge Island Child Care Centers, which runs the club, cannot find appropriate space soon, that’s exactly what will happen.

“It’s so instrumental what we do for Bainbridge families — that we open our doors early,” said Long, BICC’s executive director. “The school district does not provide that.”

In May, Long and her staff learned that the two portables the school district leases to Kids Club are needed due to the district’s growth. The district cited growing enrollment and a need for expanding educational programs as the reasons for Kids Club’s ejection.

The club is the only before and after-school program on the island for third- through sixth-graders. It is located on the district’s main campus, behind Commodore Middle School.

By June 30, everyone must be moved out of the district’s portables. Fortunately, there will be no lapse in childcare as the district is allowing the club to use the Ordway gym until the end of August.

But once August rolls around, the club will need a permanent new home. Otherwise, kids may have to be placed elsewhere.

That’s something Long isn’t willing to accept just yet.

Since receiving the news, Long has checked out several properties that would allow her to receive state licensure to operate the children’s club.

For one reason or another — mainly a lack of safe outdoor space or indoor square footage — she hasn’t been able to sign her name on the dotted line of a lease yet.

Location is what appeals to many parents whose children currently attend the club, Long said. Because the club is central to extracurriculars that are within walking distance, staff members can easily bring students to swim, gymnastics, soccer and other activities.

“These kids get to enjoy that,” she said of the club’s current location. “Our central location within the Bainbridge Island School District campus allows us to be able to offer that to our kids.”

This will be the second time this year that club members and staff have had to move, Long said. It took three months for Long to get the new space relicensed.

If all goes according to plan, she and her staff will have an opportunity to map out a detailed look of the club’s future needs and goals.

“We want to get a long-term plan together,” she said. “We’re anticipating that this would take a few years.”

Long has a few more ideas she wants to investigate before heading to the public forum for feedback.

But, she said, she thinks that may be the best way to find out how to solve the problem and keep her program alive. Details will be released soon on upcoming meetings dates, she said.

While she is praying for a positive outcome, she said she also recognizes that parents of the

100 enrolled Kids Club children also have to plan. She would rather not see her doors shuttered and the children sent to the Boys & Girls Club, she noted.

Mainly, she said, because what the two clubs offer for children is so different. It’s important to her that parents know they have options.

“Our programs are really different,” she said.  “A lot of parents like the structure, like the tutoring and everything that we provide within the day. I don’t think this needs to be a comparative.”

If she finds the ideal permanent space, she said the plans to expand operations in new ways will be exciting and endless.

“We’ve got some creative ideas that are floating around,” said Long. “But we don’t want to close our doors in the middle of that.”

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