Great Neck recreation program faces fee hike

David Zawatson, district director of athletics, recreation and physical education, reviews the summer recreation program with the school board on Monday. (Photo by Samuel Glasser)

By Samuel Glasser

Parents enrolling children in the Great Neck school district’s popular summer recreation program face a possible increase in fees this summer because of rising costs linked to increases in the minimum wage.

David Zawatson, the district’s director of athletics, recreation and physical education, recommended that fees increase by 3 percent for next summer because the district was facing a “substantial increase in the minimum wage for student workers.”

“We expect our expenses will be up by a substantial amount,” he told the Great Neck school board on Monday during his report on the summer and school year recreation programs.

Zawatson said 883 children in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in the summer day camp’s 70th season in 2016.

Full tuition for a six-week program ranged from $1,268 to $1,408.

Zawatson said the state minimum wage increased on Jan. 1 to $10 per hour from $9, a hike that affects all student seasonal staff.

The summer camp program employed 92 student workers last year, most as counselors and lifeguards.

Even with the proposed increase, the camp tuition is “extremely attractive” compared with other public and private day camps, Zawatson said.

“We have demonstrated over time the ability to keep fees at a level people can afford,” he said, while making “an effort to work with families to reduce the cost of attendance for needy children.”

Other recommendations for 2017 include a continuation of a discount for siblings, reduced rates for children enrolling for less than the full camp calendar, reduced fees for families demonstrating need and continued acceptance of nonresidents at full price, Zawatson said.

During the school year, the recreation program offers activities after school, in the evenings and on weekends.

An enrichment program was started this year providing before-school activities for grades three through five.

Thirty-five subjects will be offered for the spring, including algebra, chess, debate, math strategies and soccer.

The programs are popular, Zawatson said, with 365 students signing up for the fall trimester and 250 for the winter.

Zawatson said information for the spring program will be available after the February break and that second-graders will be able to participate.

The school board did not comment on Zawatson’s recommendations.

In other action, the board adopted a revised comprehensive attendance policy that has been updated to reflect federal standards, adds language regarding absences of homeless students and gives parents access to their child’s attendance records through the online parent portal.

The board also had a first reading on new policies to codify district practices on managing and minimizing the amount of cash held at each school and the management of the petty cash funds for each building. Readings at three meetings are required before a policy can be adopted.

Superintendent Teresa Prendergast also said that Great Neck South High School took first place in the Brookhaven National Laboratory/Long Island Regional High School Science Bowl held at the Brookhaven lab on Jan. 28.

The team consisted of five students, Melody Yang, Elissa He, Ajay Dheeraj, Allan Lee and Adrian Chen. The coach is biology teacher Jim Truglio.

Great Neck competed against 18 other teams from across Long Island in one of the regional competitions of the 27th annual U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl.

The team will go to the national finals in Washington, D.C., from April 27 to May 1.

The teams face off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format covering science disciplines including biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy and math.

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