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Parks, schools sharing resources, panel told : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Parks, schools sharing resources, panel told
Park district director details how agencies have together for years

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Oswegoland Park District Executive Director Rich Zielke explained Monday evening how the park district and the Oswego School District have worked cooperatively over the years to provide services to area residents and save taxpayers' money.

Zielke made his remarks while addressing members of the school district's finance and operations citizens advisory committee.

As an example of the two agencies cooperation, Zielke cited the park district's Kids' Connection, which is a recreational before and after school program offered in cooperation with the school district.

Zielke said the program starts at 6:15 a.m. each school day and ends at about 6:15 p.m. He said it allows families to have their children in a safe environment while the parents are going to or returning from work.

He said the program is available in all 13 school district elementary schools, but in some instances children may be bussed by the park district to a different school if a class size is too small. The park district owns five buses that serve the program, Zielke said.

Revenue generated by the program is used to cover program costs or goes to the schools where the programs are held. The goal is to provide programs in all buildings but where not practical because of low enrollments, the park district provides transportation to and from non-Kids' Connection school buildings to the closest one with the program, Associate School Superintendent Dr. Paul O'Malley said.

Continuing, Zielke said that when Fox Chase and Old Post elementary schools in Oswego were being built in the late 1990s, the park district contributed about $1 million to oversize the gymnasiums in each school. The oversized gyms allow the school district to do more with their students on school days, while the park district also utilizes the gyms after school hours.

The park district's planning department also designed the school district's playgrounds, saving that agency the cost of hiring someone to do the work. The park district also maintains the playgrounds, Zielke noted.

"Over the years many of the shared resources have become co-mingled and not easily identifiable. The OPD maintains all of our playgrounds and ball fields. They provide daily safety inspections by a Certified National Parks and Recreation Inspector. This safety measure is critical. Broken equipment is immediately repaired or replaced at no expense to the school district. Acts of vandalism are reported and covered by the park district insurance," O'Malley said.

The park district also works with the school district's building engineers to design safer pedestrian pathways paid for by the park district. They also have installed a new wheelchair ramp at Fox Chase and Old Post. They also provide scholarships or tuition reductions for special cases, and work closely with the school's staff and various government family help organizations, O'Malley said.

O'Malley added that he and Zielke updated a 39-page intergovernmental agreement between the two agencies. He said it included many agreements between the two agencies. Some were signed off, some not, some were hand written and some were handshake agreements, he said.

All the documents have been compiled into the new agreements, which were presented to the school district's finance and operations committee for review before being sent to the boards of both districts for review and approval.

He said they hope to have the agreement ready for adoption by both boards sometime in June.

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