It’s hard to argue against what the Youth Advocacy Resource Development (YARD) program has meant for this community and its students. From administering after school supervision at Pierson to developing summer beach activities for teens (all at no cost to parents), those who run the YARD program have a dedication to the youth of Sag Harbor unparalleled by most.
And yet the future of the summer beach program is now uncertain.
Historically, YARD has been issued an insurance waiver from the Sag Harbor School District, allowing the YARD summer beach program to spend only $200 on the required insurance, versus the $4,000 to $7,000 it would have to spend if it were a private entity.
This is a considerable difference, especially for a non-profit organization with a relatively small annual budget to begin with.
However, the YARD program had been using the district’s insurance without actually being adopted as a district program.
Ok, you say, the solution’s really simple: the board of education approves the YARD summer beach program, issues an insurance waiver and then teens throughout the Sag Harbor area can continue to avoid trouble by congregating on Long Beach three nights out of the week in the summer.
Unfortunately, it’s not that cut and dry.
For the district to take on a recreational program like YARD’s, it isn’t enough to issue a waiver and allow the program to carry on. The school functions under specific state rules which require all programs to not only be overseen by a teacher or, in this case, the YARD director, but by a district administrator. In other words, if YARD becomes a district program it, too, must abide by the state’s regulations.
In many ways, we’d like to see the district take a stronger, more supportive role in the YARD program. It not only gives working parents a safe place to send their kids after school and provides a haven in the community for otherwise at-risk teens, most importantly it serves a function that helps the school district itself by keeping students out of trouble.
But running the program through the school district would come with problems of its own. Providing district supervision would not only make more work for school administrators (we can already detect the faint smell of labor negotiations that would be sparked by such a prospect), but it would most likely involve costs (we can’t imagine anyone working for free, especially in the summer).
So, where does this leave YARD?
Of course the program could latch onto another entity and obtain an insurance waiver outside the district. It’s certainly possible. But, as long as the program is beholden to a parent organization, it loses its autonomy.
The YARD program has been so successful in its 13-year history, we feel the best way to ensure it maintains the programs and the oversight it’s been able to provide all these years is for it to function as its own governing body. For this, it needs to be able to provide its own insurance.
It’s not the most desirable option, we know. But it seems the most viable for all parties.
Already, the YARD program receives roughly $80,000 in funding from government municipalities, including the Sag Harbor School District. By working hard in this next year to raise an additional $4,000 to $7,000, the YARD program will be able to make certain its summer beach program remains intact and untouched.
As for this year, we sincerely hope the district and the YARD board are able to come to some agreement for the immediate future.
But come next year, should the district maintain the position it took this time last year (that it would not administer the YARD summer beach program), we hope the district makes it’s stance very clear. And we hope YARD works accordingly in the months ahead to prepare itself for summers to come.