The city’s ‘Garage’ finds itself in a diminished role.
In recent years, teachers and community leaders have emphasized the importance of kids’ “out-of-school” time, the critical afternoon hours between school letting out and evening activities or family time.
With parents working more than ever before, youth are increasingly left alone during that period with little to do — and those students are often the same ones who could use homework help or other structured activities, said Tom Umhoefer, community education director for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district.
After four years of discussion, a collaborative new plan will address the needs of Burnsville youth after school, providing them with both academic support and recreational activities.
“It’s about blending the academic with the enrichment,” said Umhoefer. “You have to have a combination of the two.”
The Burnsville Youth Collaborative (BYC), a partnership between the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district, the city and the YMCA, will begin this fall, offering an after-school pilot program for 150 seventh- and eighth-grade students at Nicollet Junior High.
The offerings will replace an after-school program run by the Garage, a youth-oriented community center and music venue started in 1999 in Burnsville.
It will run from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. Available at no cost to kids who qualify, it will involve an academic portion and then time in the gym, the computer lab or a YMCA-taught class. A meal and bus ride home also are included.
A four-day-a-week summer program is also in the works, he said.
“I think that we’ve really struggled with how we’re going to serve youth in this community, and this is a new model,” said Council Member Mary Sherry.
The future of the Garage
The plan, presented at a joint City Council and school board meeting in mid-July, also addresses the future of the Garage, which has long offered after-school programs and weekend activities such as concerts.
The Garage will be run by the city through January, and then become a nonprofit organization, said Terry Schultz, Burnsville’s parks and recreation director.
It would operate at no cost to the BYC partners, and ticket revenue could offset costs.
“I believe that the city has wanted to get out of running the Garage” for a while, said Umhoefer.
Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said that’s because the city isn’t in the business of designing after-school programs or managing a youth center. “That’s not where our wheelhouse is,” she said.
Kautz has touted the center as a huge community asset in the past, and the website www.elizabethkautz.org still read, as of last week:
“Mayor Elizabeth is an active supporter of the very successful Burnsville Youth Garage. … It is simply the most successful youth center in the metro area.”
Things seem to have changed.