Irving Pertzsch Elementary will change child care providers for its surround care program next year, after a decision Monday by the Onalaska Board of Education.

Pertzsch has had a longstanding agreement with Childfirst, but officials wanted to rewrite a contract that was more current with state law, said Larry Dalton, district finance director. Wisconsin schools must provide care for students before and after school, or bring in outside companies.

“Unless we operate it ourselves, we have to let outsiders come in,” Dalton said.

The district approved a new agreement between the YMCA and all of the district’s elementary schools for surround care services beginning in the 2014-15 school year. The YMCA, which already provided surround care at Eagle Bluff and Northern Hills elementaries, was the only organization to respond to a request for proposals, Dalton said.

“Childfirst let us know that they weren’t interested in providing services at our school any more,” Dalton said.”They just decided in terms of their business, they didn’t wish to do it again.”

Childfirst is a locally based organization with locations throughout La Crosse County. District officials indicated they wanted one provider to service all three elementary schools, and Childfirst’s board of directors decided they didn’t have the resources, Executive Director Michael Grego said.

“We figured we couldn’t compete with the Y,” Grego said.

Surround care is on-premises child care for students who might need to come in early or stay late. The district can provide the services, but can’t charge the parents.

However, schools can allow providers to use their space for minimal cost, and any payment agreement is made between the parent and provider, Dalton said.

State law requires that providers pay for “incremental costs” – but those are limited, Dalton said.

“It really is a service for parents who may be working and need to leave before starts and come back after school ends,” Dalton said.

No e-cigs allowed

The next edition of the Onalaska High School student handbook will ban e-cigarettes on school property, under a new policy.

The federal government has promised to restrict sale of the vaporous tobacco products to minors, but meanwhile there are currently no age restrictions on who can buy e-cigarettes. However, OHS students won’t be allowed to puff on school grounds.

The high school “prohibits all chemicals and substances which release toxic vapors or gases used for the purpose of giving off fumes, vapors, or gases to produce a mood altering affect,” according to the new handbook.

This includes e-cigarettes or any other electronic device used to consume tobacco, Associate Principal Anna Curtis said.

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Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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