For the last two summers, Ken Niebauer and his wife dropped their daughter off at a Richland elementary school for camp with Champions, a school and summer program.
The Niebauers received a surprise Friday morning when they got an e-mail from Champions officials saying the program, which serves about 500 kids in Richland, would end Aug. 3.
Instead, the district would use for its childcare the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties — which committed to establishing a club in Richland if it won the contract.
The clubs posted about the switch Friday.
They also posted proposed rates, which the clubs claim will save Richland parents between 17-20 percent on childcare costs — presumably compared to Champions.
Richland is the only city where the clubs don't have a presence.
The Richland School Board is expected to vote June 26 on whether to switch to the organization.
"I'm mostly irritated by the blindsided nature of the announcement and the lack of parent involvement in the process," Ken Niebauer told the Herald. "I'm also irritated that the change is happening mid-summer and not on a hard border like the start of school."
"We regret that we did not communicate the change to families before the information came from Champions," said Superintendent Rick Schulte. "We expected to notify everyone after board action and we did not anticipate there would be earlier notice going out."
Niebauer isn't the only parent struggling to make sense of the shift. Champions staff are surprised too.
The national program operates 470 before- and after-school programs, including 10 in the Richland School District. About 500 students participate.
While the switch may be unexpected, Richland School District officials said it started as a routine request for proposals.
Every five years, the district asks organizations to submit a plan for how they would provide childcare before and after school and during the summer.
That notice went out in May, and the district received two proposals — one from Champions and the other from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties.
They were rated on 12 criteria including what educational programs were offered, the contractor experience and the percentage of revenues focused on "closing the income-based achievement gap."
It was the Boys & Girls Clubs' ability to serve low-income families better that was one of leading factors mentioned in an email that Schulte sent to parents Saturday.
"We expect tuition costs will be noticeably lower and there will be more flexibility for drop in or temporary child care," he said. "Low income families will have affordable access and tuition allowances will be available."
If board members agree to the switch, district officials plan to work with both organizations to make the transition seamless.