Latchkey funding safe for now

By Jonathan Delozier -

Funding will not be cut for Westwood Elementary School’s latchkey program, at least for the rest of this school year.

The Mercy Health Foundation of Lorain County recently told the Wellington board of education it was considering ending its $6,500 yearly contribution toward latchkey, but said on Monday it will continue to fund the program.

Contributions from Mercy toward latchkey began 12 years ago when the program, now more than 30 years old, was also in danger of being cut.

Latchkey coordinator Jackie Dunlap said the district had offered to help keep the program running the rest of this school year in the event Mercy didn’t continue its contributions.

“This is such a relief,” she said. “I told Mercy I didn’t have any hard feelings at all and I understand how foundations operate. It’s really a big weight off my shoulders for this year. It sounds like it’s something that’s going to be re-looked at each year going forward, but I’m just grateful for this year.”

Scott Pember, president of the Mercy Foundation of Lorain County, confirmed that funding would now be allocated on a year-to-year basis.

“We’ve been looking at this for a month now and that has a lot to do with some changes we’re making,” he said. “We’re very happy to continue support this year. Beyond that, we’ll look at it like we always do. We know the latchkey program is struggling and we want to help. Just like any nonprofit, our dollars are tight. There was not a final decision made to stop funding.”

Parents pay an initial $40 enrollment fee to put their child in latchkey, then pay $4.50 for each hour of participation. For a second child, the hourly rate drops to $4.25 and for a third it is reduced to $4.

The remainder of the program’s $40,000 annual budget is generated through donations and fundraisers.

New Boys & Girls Club initiatives in the Wellington Schools had already begun to cut into latchkey enrollment, with roughly 25 students and their parents electing to switch to the free offerings, according to educators.

However, latchkey remains the only program to offer morning supervision for Westwood students.

Dunlap said even with Mercy’s funding it’s still not certain that morning and afternoon latchkey will continue the rest of this school year.

“I’m hoping it will but I can’t say for sure,” she said. “The district has offered its help. My goal is to definitely get through this year. Next year, we’ll look at what’s what. It’s very important to Wellington parents to have services like this in the mornings.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

By Jonathan Delozier