Manhattan’s two middle school recreation centers will be reserved for youth activities for a few hours in the afternoon on school days, part of a new partnership between the city and the Boys & Girls Club of Manhattan beginning Monday.
The Boys & Girls Club will utilize space in the facilities at Anthony and Eisenhower Middle Schools between 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. those days – otherwise remaining open to the public during normal hours on those days and all day on weekends and non-school days. The agreement will last at least through the end of the school year in 2023.
“This is going to bring more structure to [the centers],” City Manager Ron Fehr said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Manhattan City Commission.
According to a news release on the topic, Interim Parks and Recreation Director Wyatt Thompson says the school-adjacent facilities saw high usage from students after schools let out and proved difficult at times for the department to manage.
“The Boys & Girls Club has the necessary expertise and resources to provide safe, effective after-school programming opportunities for our youth,” Thompson says.
The Boys & Girls Club already provides after-school programming at Anthony and Eisenhower in coordination with the USD 383 school district, with Fehr referring to the new partnership as an expansion of those existing programs. He says there are also provisions in the City of Manhattan’s memorandum of understanding with BGC allowing them to back out of the arrangement if it did not work out.
“We certainly have the Douglass Community Center,” Fehr says, “where folks could go to do some of those activities if that’s a time frame that folks are looking for some of the exercise and capabilities within those facilities.”
Boys & Girls Club CEO Hannah Coash says they look forward to the expansion of their programming, calling the partnership ‘a very exciting opportunity for youth in the Manhattan community.’
City commissioners Tuesday were largely supportive of the memorandum, though Mayor Linda Morse questioned whether there was a way to keep part of the facility open to the public during BGC programming.
“We’re allowing these 50 or 60 students after school to run everybody else out,” Morse says.
Fehr says the initial goal of the ballot initiative that funded the two middle school facilities was to create a recreation center that the school district would utilize most of the day, with the city being able to program the space in the evenings and weekends.
Designs changed into the split use concept over time in the course of their development – half school and half public use – with USD 383 currently getting priority access to part of both centers on school days. Under this new schedule, the facilities will be fully utilized by USD 383 and BGC on school days between 2:45 and 5:30 p.m.
Fehr also noted BGC has goals to increase its program rosters, and called the partnership worthy to try and bring more structure to after school activities at the facilities.
Commissioner Usha Reddi was understanding of the mayor’s interest, though expressed support for the partnership in light of the city’s difficulty managing high volumes of patrons after school.
“We also don’t have a YMCA or anywhere else for these children, students to go,” Reddi says. “And one of the predominant crises in our community has been there isn’t a place for adolescents to hang out.”
Commissioner Wynn Butler called the unstructured after school activities at the middle school centers a problem, saying the facilities saw groups of 100 youths at a time.
“They did things like grab basketballs and throw them at people that were on the running track and they chased people off the pickleball courts – they were out of control,” Butler says. “I think this is a great solution.”
Fehr says information was handed out regarding the partnership and signing up for BGC programming at Back to School Night events at the middle schools. Their website is BGClubManhattan.com.