Four more Douglas County BASE programs rated as Accredited with Distinction
CASTLE ROCK— Paula Zwemke received fantastic news last month. The Before and After School Enterprise (BASE) Director was notified that four more BASE program sites have been rated as Accredited with Distinction by the Council of Accreditation (COA), the highest rating possible by the agency. Lone Tree Elementary, Gold Rush Elementary, Redstone Elementary, and Soaring Hawk Elementary BASE programs are the latest to join a rapidly growing list in Douglas County.
With these additions, Douglas County School District (DCSD) is now home to twelve BASE sites that are accredited by the Council on Accreditation.
Gone are the days when a program like BASE could be considered just a childcare option for working and busy parents. In DCSD, BASE is providing services that augment and enrich the education children are receiving during the day in their schools.
“BASE begins as an essential need for working parents and single parents,” said Paula Zwemke, Director of BASE programming at DCSD. “But then as the good word gets out, parents also see additional benefits.”
In fact, there are several parents who are not in need of childcare at all, but see the value of BASE for their child.
“Children who participate in our programs acquire the knowledge and abilities to make educated choices concerning their social, emotional, and physical health while learning principles of respect, integrity, honesty, and responsibility,” Zwemke said.
WATCH: BASE empowers students with choice at Rock Ridge Elementary School
The accreditation process is a multistep, comprehensive review process that ensures the highest possible quality programming.
It all begins with a self-study, in which Zwemke and individual BASE site directors examine current practices versus accreditation standards, which are considered to be well-researched best practices. Zwemke likes to practice this self-evaluation even for school sites that aren’t going through the accreditation process.
“The self-study is something we do formally and informally because it behooves us to make sure we are moving in that direction and continuously growing,” Zwemke said.
Elements they study include things like qualifications of staff, training and professional development opportunities, risk management and emergency response protocol, sound fiscal management, and enrollment, as well as quality and content of youth programming.
The self-study is conducted over a three month period.
“During that time we’ll do mock inspections to prep the BASE site directors and staff to have that critical eye, and really look at what they are doing, and why they chose a particular activity and how that is being implemented for the kids,” Zwemke said. “We also help prepare staff and answer their questions.”
An endorser from COA then comes in and looks at all components. That person interviews Zwemke, as well as staff, kids, the principal of the school site, and parents. They also look at all of the programming, administrative, and human resource elements, plus compliance, confidentiality and record maintenance standards.
In order to receive a ranking of Accredited with Distinction, all fundamental practice standards must be rated at the highest level.
“This ranking is important for parents,” Zwemke said. “They can have confidence that this program is really committed to delivering the highest quality services, has a well trained staff, and that the programs are outcome based since the accreditation pushes us to continue to improve and is based on measured results. Also, families actively participate in the decision making process with practices and policies in accredited programs.”
This semester, Zwemke is beginning the accreditation process all over again with three additional BASE school sites. Next year, she is hoping the entire DCSD BASE program, including all 42 sites can be accredited together.
Zwemke is able to keep a good gauge on the readiness of sites for this purpose based on staff and parent feedback.
“We really try to base the programming on what the kids and families want,” Zwemke said. “The best feedback is when a parent comes to pick up and the child doesn’t want to leave— that’s the ultimate endorsement of our programs. We provide opportunities for children to make friends, discover new interests, and have a voice in the program, and parents may not be able to do that at home. Our goal is to be a place where kids ‘want to be,’ not just ‘have to be.’”