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Bend parents upset by plans to drop ‘open gym’


Bend-La Pine Schools plan to take a popular before- and after-school program for a much more expensive one. Tuesday night. parents sounded off at the school board meeting.

The “open gym” program serves Miller, Highland and High Lakes elementary schools as an affordable before- and after-school program for kids, at $75 to $200 a year, depending on the school.

But starting in the fall, the popular program will be no more, and the alternative will cost over $1,000 more annually.

Parent after parent spoke to the school board about why they should keep the open gym program — parents like Peter Grube, who has two kids at Highland Elementary.

Afterward, Grube said, “It felt like, they gave us the courtesy of expressing ourselves which we appreciate, and then we felt very blown off with no indication of next steps, how we proceed, how we work together.”

Grube believes open gym is a great tool for parents who need that extra child care assistance to accommodate a busy work schedule.

“It was a really elegant solution that was cost-effective and provided everything we needed and nothing that we didn’t,” Grube said.

But the district said they can no longer keep up with the costs of the program. So in conjunction with Bend Park and Recreation, they’ve created an alternative.

“We’ve always felt as a board that options serve kids best,” said Cheri Helt, the Bend-La Pine School Board co-chair. “One size fits all does not always work well for kids.”

Parents believe the current option is the best one.

“Open gym isn’t just child care,” Jen Newton said. “Open gym is a sense of community, a sense of culture that our schools have.”

Despite the criticism, Helt said they are willing to work with the parents on a solution.

“This is a community process, and we need to be patient to make sure it works,” Helt said. “We also need to be diligent and make sure it works.”

But Grube said getting rid of open gym is a lose-lose situation.

“Basically, it felt like a stonewall answer repeated over and over that it’s a done deal, go home,” Grube said.

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