This letter was submitted by Reston resident Alexandra Kenny South. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. We publish article and opinion contributions of specific interest to the Reston community. Contributions may be edited for length or content.
As a working parent with young children enrolled in Reston Association’s Fit Kids After-School Program, I was deeply dismayed by the Reston Association Board of Directors’ recent decision to end the program mid-school year. I followed with interest the discussion at the Board meeting as well as the Reston Now reporting on the ruling and the comments posted online. I thought I would provide my perspective on the matter as one of the families directly affected.
I have two children who attend Reston Association’s Fit Kids After-School Program, ages 8 (3rd grade) and 5 (kindergarten). They ride the bus to the Lake House from Lake Anne Elementary School every afternoon, where they spend the next few hours engrossed in experiential learning activities, homework help, outdoor play and creative arts. Dan Merenick, Katherine Caffrey and the rest of the Fit Kids staff bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the RA Fit Kids Program, and perhaps most importantly, my husband and I know as working parents that we can trust them 1,000 percent to take excellent care of our children.
We were taken aback to hear the Board’s Hunters Woods/Dogwood District representative, Victoria White, state that, “Quite frankly, we’re a homeowners’ association. We’re not a child-care provider.” Reston Association has, in fact, long been a child-care provider, offering a wide range of summer and other school holiday educational programming which we and many other Reston families have benefitted from. The Fit Kids Program is an extension of the programming that the Reston Association has offered for years, and it is a lifeline for us as parents with two small children and two full-time demanding jobs that require a lengthy commute. It has been especially vital to us on the many days during the school year that are teacher workdays/student holidays, for which we would otherwise have to take leave. With the program now being discontinued midway through the school year (Dec. 15, we’ve since been told), we will be left high and dry, as public school-based after-care programs (SACC), which have similar costs, carry a very long waiting list, and spots at other private after-school care providers are few and far between, particularly in the middle of an existing school year. The decision obviously impacts the Fit Kids staff as well, many of whom gave up other afterschool positions to work at RA.
I understand, of course, the need to look at the bottom line when considering which programs to continue or not, particularly when the Lake House renovation costs were not budgeted appropriately from the start, leading to an overall loss in revenue over time. However, it’s not clear to me how RA envisions bringing in greater revenue by eliminating the Fit Kids Program at the Lake House. I would expect that any increase in revenue through special events, such as weddings, office parties, and the like, would be gained outside of the Program’s working hours (3:30-6:30 p.m. on weekdays). On the rare occasion that the Lake House was reserved during those hours, perhaps the Fit Kids Program could be moved to Brown’s Chapel or elsewhere to accommodate it.
On a more personal note, I grew up in Reston and I moved back here in 2011 in large part because I wanted my kids to experience the sense of community that RA contributes to. It saddens and disappoints me greatly that the RA Board cut such a valuable resource to our family because they don’t believe that other Restonians care to pay an additional $6-7 per household per year – paltry in comparison to the sums paid to the Reston Association for other goods and services, including use of recreational facilities. There must be another way to boost revenue that does not harm the many children that are gaining so much through their participation in RA’s Fit Kids Program.
Alexandra Kenny South