Several families whose children attend Title I schools in Greenwich, including on the west side of town in Byram and Chickahominy, are scrambling this week at the news their children don’t have spots in the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich’s after school program.
The Club communicated their renovation plans to families beginning in April, and explained that not everyone would be guaranteed a place during the Club’s renovation, but the news still took a number of families by surprise last week.
The renovation starts in September and is expected to be completed in early 2025.
A fear is that parents in an already challenging economic situation may have to sacrifice their income or leave small children at home unattended. And worse, that some parents may not yet realize that on September 1 their children will have nowhere to go.
During about two years of planning of the major renovation, which involved working with experts on renovation details, working with town departments for permissions, and of course fundraising, the Club also scoured the town for temporary facilities.
For example, though the modular building in Horseneck Lot was supposed to be demolished at least a decade ago, the Selectmen and P&Z commission approved the Club’s request to use it. Most recently the building was used by Neighbor to Neighbor for their food pantry while their new building was under construction. Prior to that it was used by the Byram Fire Station while their building was renovated.
But that building will mostly be used by the Club for storage.
Finding space to continue as much programming as possible has been a challenge and the goal has been to accommodate as many of the existing club members as possible.
The Club was able to rent space occupied until recently by Barbara’s House (formerly CCI) at St. Roch’s Church property.
Barbara’s House recently moved to a suite at 100 Melrose Place, behind Wendy’s on West Putnam Ave. They rented the St. Roch’s space for three years.
But still, that is not enough space for the Club’s displaced programming.
An arrangement with Arch Street Teen Center to rent space at that town-owned building fell through last week.
In a statement by email Sunday night, Club CEO Cristina Vittoria said, “We anticipated having enough room to support the vast majority of our members who attend on a regular basis, but now find ourselves in a position where we cannot satisfy the volume of demand for our program.”
“For the last year, we have been in conversations with the Teen Center in hopes to secure space,” Vittoria added.”We are working to address some recently added conditions so that we can come to mutually agreeable terms.”
Vittoria said the Club was grateful to generous community partners, including Hamilton Avenue School, New Lebanon School, YMCA, Brunswick School, Bruce Museum and others, who have offered their spaces for specific enrichment programs like swimming, art and education.
But, Vittoria continued, “Because of space limitations in our temporary location at St. Roch’s educational building, we can only serve a portion of our members.”
Reached for comment Sunday night, Icy Frantz, who is the chair of the Teen Center Board of Directors, said, “We are still hoping that we can work together.”
Ms Frantz said the Teen Center and the Boys & Girls Club worked through the summer to find terms that would work for both organizations.
But, she added that trying to pull boards and executive boards together in the summer to take votes was challenging.
She explained that the bottom line was that the building is old very expensive to operate.
Specifically she said, “It is difficult to know exactly what the utilities will be. In addition there are costs involved with readying the center for a much younger population.”
“We are continuing conversations this week,” Frantz added. “It is my sincere hope that the Boys and Girls Club will be able to offer their programs at Arch Street very soon.”
Ms Vittoria said the Club recognized the unfortunate position many families find themselves in.
“We have been working tirelessly to find a solution,” she added. “In the interim, we have opened our Camp Simmons property for the first few weeks of school to provide temporary after-school care to unplaced Club members, while BGCG, the Town of Greenwich and parents work to find alternative locations and services. We appreciate the patience and understanding of our families as we continue to work towards serving our members during this transition.”
Reached by email, First Selectman Fred Camillo said on Monday:
“The Boys & Girls Club is a special place, not just for those of us who went there as kids, but for anyone who loves an entity that has as its core mission the betterment of young boys and girls at a critical time in their lives. With the long awaited renovations about to commence, The GBGC has been working hard for well over a year to find accommodations and recently encountered a glitch that they are working just as hard to fix. The Town and its many partners are in the process of helping GBGC and seeking a solution so that all of the kids served by this great institution are taken care of as well as provide a bridge to the new and exciting Club.”
On Tuesday, Barbara’s House reached out to say parents displaced by the Boys & Girls Club renovation can sign their children up for after school programs at Barbara’s House.
Note: This story was updated to reflect that Barbara’s House, formerly CCI, rented at St Roch’s for three years, not one.
Note: This story was also updated to omit Grace Daycare and Learning Center as a non profit that rents from St Roch. The organization is for-profit.