Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Proposed Boys & Girls Club Project at Garfield Elementary
There have been many questions from the community regarding the recent proposal to locate a Boys & Girls Club at Garfield Elementary and we wanted to provide as many details and as much information about the project at this point in time. As more details become available we will continue to provide updates here on our web site.
What does the Boys & Girls Club project entail?
Boys & Girls Club plans on building a new 20,000 sq. ft. youth center that will be designed to serve kids in Olympia. The Club is expected to serve 250 kids per day and will feature an art studio, games room, technology lab, a full-service kitchen, classrooms, a library, a full-size gym, and administrative offices. A full description for the project can found at olyclubforkids.com.
How does the Boys & Girls Club operate and what programs are offered?
For $25 a year, students can get a membership to the Boys & Girls Club where they provide healthy meals and snacks, guidance-based mentoring support, tutoring and homework assistance, athletic programs, art projects, access to technology and classes, and leadership and life skills training. While the Boys & Girls Club is open to all kids, the Clubs play also play a critical role in serving at-risk students and those children from low-income households. Students and families who cannot afford the $25 annual membership are able to get it waived. The Clubs provide a safe, healthy and positive place for students to go after school. More information about the Boys & Girls Clubs and their programs can be found at bgctc.org.
What agreement does the school district have in place with Boys & Girls Clubs?
Currently the district has a verbal agreement to locate a Boys Girls Club at Garfield Elementary. The district is planning on long-term lease (40 years) with Boys & Girls Club at $1 a year. This is similar to other agreements between Boys & Girls Club and school districts throughout Thurston County, Washington State and the United States. While we intend on leasing the land to the Boys & Girls Clubs for a $1 a year, the Clubs are solely responsible for raising more than $6 million in charitable funds to build the facility and they will also be responsible for all of the costs associated with operating and maintaining the facility over its lifetime. In return, for the $1 a year lease our students get a wonderful and positive place to go after school. It is proven, that kids who go to the Boys & Girls Club are more likely to graduate from high school, move on to college and to stay out of trouble. In addition, the district will have full access to the facility during the day, offering a place for our staff to hold professional development training, while also giving our teachers added space for classes like PE.
The original plan was to have the Club located on the Northwest Ball Field; however, the community would prefer an alternate site location, so what are the plans now?
We are currently in discussions with the City of Olympia, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and the group concerned neighbors to find a solution for a location that works for everyone involved in this project. The other optional locations at this point all involve the district property on the old Garfield bus turnaround and a few other spots that also involve part of Woodruff Park, which is owned and operated by the City of Olympia.
Over the past couple of weeks we've had several meetings with all of the parties mentioned above and we have additional meetings planned in the coming weeks in hopes of settling on a new site solution that works better for everyone involved. As we gear up for major renovations to Garfield Elementary, we want to ensure that if the Club is situated on/or near Woodruff Park and School District property, the two buildings are designed to work together for the greatest efficiencies and program effectiveness.
We understand the concern about the site for the proposed Club and we appreciate the input we have received from the community. We have and continue to take this input into consideration as we work to find a solution. As the process continues, we will work with the Boys & Girls Club to update the community on the progress of the project and to keep citizens and neighbors informed of opportunities to gather more information and/or share your opinions.
Why is Garfield Elementary the preferred location for the school district and Boys & Girls Clubs?
One thing is for certain; the Club needs to be located on or next to the Garfield property because this location is critical to serving the more than 2,000 students who live in the area, many of which participate in the district’s free and reduced lunch program, which is a strong indicator of poverty. In fact, 60% of the Garfield student population participates in the school’s free and reduced lunch program.
Doesn’t the Boys & Girls Club currently operate out of Jefferson Middle School? Why not build the Club on the gravel overflow parking lot at Jefferson?
While right now, the Boys & Girls Club operates an after school program at Jefferson Middle School it is strictly for just middle school students and a small handful of elementary students from Garfield. This program was started in 2009 when the City of Olympia had to shut down its after school programs for middle school students due to budget cuts. The Boys & Girls Club stepped forward to offer a solution by starting a program at Jefferson. At the time they did not have the funds to staff programs at all the middle schools so they decided to offer programs at Jefferson and provide van transportation from the other middle schools to Jefferson for efficiency purposes. While the program has flourished, Boys & Girls Club is limited by the space that is available at Jefferson so they are at their capacity by serving approximately 75 students each day.
At their other Clubs throughout the county, Boys & Girls Clubs primarily serves students ages 7 to 12. Right now the Club receives dozens of calls each week from parents wanting to enroll their elementary age children in the Boys & Girls Club; however, space is not available. A new Club at Garfield will allow Boys & Girls Clubs to serve anywhere between 250 to 300 students a day and will provide easy and safe access for elementary age students, which will be the majority of the students they will end up serving at this facility.
Having a Club at Jefferson creates a number of safety issues because we will have hundreds of elementary students having to walk and cross many busy streets (Division) to get to the Club rather than just having to walk a few feet from the school to the Club. In addition, having a Club at Jefferson would require more transportation for a number of students, which increases the ongoing operational costs for Boys & Girls Clubs. The suggested site at Jefferson is also currently part of the permanent parking plan that is required by the City of Olympia for the Cavalry Church next to the school and also for Capital High School. At this point the school district and Boys & Girls Clubs continue to believe that Garfield is the right place for the Club and we believe it will play a valuable role in the lives of our students and families for years to come.
Doesn’t the YMCA already offer after school programs? So why do we need a Boys & Girls Club?
Yes, the YMCA does offer a before and after school program at Garfield Elementary. The Boys & Girls Clubs, just like the YMCA, play a critical and important role in lives of our local youth after the school bell rings each day. We believe they have equal value and that it is up to parents and students to decide what the right program is for them. Each organization has its own unique programs and service offerings to best meet the diverse needs of students and families; however, both organizations have an excellent reputation and proven track record for providing academic, mentorship, leadership and healthy life skill programs that positively influence the lives of students.
We do not believe this is a case of either/or, it is a situation where we are adding more after school options in which parents and student can choose what program works best for them. In addition to the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs, the school district also works with a host of other youth serving organizations like the City of Olympia’s Parks & Recreation program, Community Youth Services, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of Southwest Washington, Thurston County TOGETHER!, YWCA, Hands on Children’s Museum and many more organizations. Each of these organizations provides their own unique programs and services to meet the diverse needs of our community’s youth to help them grow and strengthen both personally and academically.