Update, Thursday 10:38 a.m. — HUGS executive director Kym Laube said in an email to The Express she hopes the after-school program will be “up and running in the very near future.”
“We are excited to have the opportunity to work in partnership with the Sag Harbor School district to launch an after school program for the middle school,” she said. “We are in the process of hiring staff, ordering supplies and equipment and preparing to open soon.”
It’s nearly halfway through the school year and the new after-school program for Pierson Middle School students approved by the Sag Harbor School Board in October has yet to be launched, but little information is forthcoming from either the Sag Harbor School District or HUGS Inc., the nonprofit organization with whom the district has contracted to run the program, to explain why.
HUGS, which stands for Human Understanding and Growth Services, Inc., did not respond to requests for comment this week. Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves referred questions to the Pierson administration, which did not return requests for comment by press time. School board president Diana Kolhoff said Wednesday she had “no information” and said she would request an update at a future school board meeting.
The new after-school program is to replace the Youth Advocacy and Resource Development program, or YARD, which ran at Pierson in conjunction with support from the Sag Harbor Youth Resource Center for 18 years. The district ended the YARD program last June when its longtime director, Debbie Skinner, retired.
Janet Grossman, director of the youth resource center, told The Sag Harbor Express this week that the lack of a formal replacement program for middle schoolers when the school day ends thus far has been a disappointment. She said, however, she has been personally told by Kym Laube, executive director of HUGS, that the new program will be starting “soon,” and that HUGS is about to embark on purchasing equipment and furniture for it.
“We’re glad something is going to be starting up. This year there’s been nothing, and I’m sure it’s been very difficult for parents,” Ms. Grossman said, noting the YRC had donated all the furniture and equipment it had at Pierson to Southampton Youth Services and the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center.
“There’s a lot of in between times when kids need places to go,” Ms. Grossman said. “That’s what the YARD program provided, but now the YRC is not involved, and not by choice.”
Sixth-graders have fewer opportunities for after-school activities than older students in seventh and eighth grades because they cannot join sports teams. The program envisioned by the Pierson administration was to be a supervised, drop-in program based in the school cafeteria, with a “lounge like feel.”
The impact of not having an after-school program has trickled down the road to Harbor Market, where general manager and owner Susana Del Favero said it’s been busier after school this year than the previous two years her eatery has been there.
“We definitely have seen an influx compared to last year, but we have always had a big turnout of after-school kids here,” she said. “But we always took the kids into consideration. We always get a big crowd of kids, but definitely this year, it’s interesting because the lack of an after-school program. But we’re very happy — we welcome them. They sit down and do their homework, some come in with their parents or friends. They’re great kids.”