School board gives Youth Foundation a hand up | VailDaily.com

School board gives Youth Foundation a hand up

EAGLE — The Youth Foundation is looking at a $150,000 budget deficit this year, so they asked for a little help from the school district, where much of their focus is.

The school board agreed to cover about half of that, and suggested asking the Eagle County commissioners for some of the rest.

Ironically, in 2008, the Youth Foundation went to the county government first, and the county sent them to the school district for the rest.

“It is challenging, but we want to be known as someone who helps our partners. We’re willing to help someone who’s helping our kids,” said Kate Cocchiarella, school board member.

Donor fatigue

Melisa Rewold-Thuon runs the Youth Foundation, a program of the Vail Valley Foundation, and asked the school board for the money. After the successful 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships, the entire valley was suffering from a little donor fatigue, she said.

“A lot of donors have exhausted giving this year, because of all the things they’ve been asked for,” she said.

The Youth Foundation provides art, athletic and academic opportunities for children, families and teachers throughout the Vail Valley.

They reach more than 4,000 local children with programs from early childhood through high school and beyond with scholarships.

They calculate that they spend more than 250 contact hours per year with each of these students.

Puts its money where its heart is

The Youth Foundation also puts its money where its heart is, Rewold-Thuon said.

When the school district dropped middle school activities buses during two years of brutal budget cuts, the Youth Foundation picked it up.

The Youth Foundation also spent $1 million directly on Eagle County Schools staff, to help make it possible for them to live here.

“It’s an investment that pays huge dividends,” Rewold-Thuon said.

The district has all sorts of funding needs, but this is an important partnership, school board members said.

“So much of the Youth Foundation budget is spent to support our teachers,” said Patrick Hirn, school board member.

Among The Youth Foundation’s programs in schools are: Success at 6, an early childhood program; Great Start, a kindergarten readiness program; the Magic Bus; the Parent Mentor program; and the Power Hour summer program, which included 420 local kids last summer.

The Youth Foundation’s total budget is $3.65 million, Rewold-Thuon said.

They’re working their way out of it, and are taking steps to keep it from happening in the future, she said.

Where the money will come from

Although the school district has its own financial issues, the school board managed to come up with the money.

The school board has $55,000 at its disposal from a federal supplemental grant program. That money cannot be used for anything other than programs already in place, said Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County schools.

Some of the rest of money will come from a decrease in the school district’s insurance rates, because it was designated a safe work place — sort of like getting a safe driver discount on your auto insurance.

Because of the close relationship with the school district, “their problem is our problem,” Glass said.

It’s a case-by-case decision, looking at the organization doing the asking, and the school district’s own financial decision, Glass said.

The school board made it clear they cannot accommodate a long line of open hands, and that this is a one-time issue resulting from the conditions of this year.

Next year, they’re looking at an even tighter budget, Cocchiarella said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.