A Sustainable Sedona needs Strong Schools



August 13, 2021

chamber-image-wildcat-kids-02-01A sustainable Sedona needs strong schools with access to a good education for all. Education is the enabler that allows young people to visualize a limitless future and perceive a bigger world. It is also the path to opportunity and a meaningful life. In a competitive, complex world, education helps young people make informed decisions, increasing their confidence to reach for the stars.


But as the new school year begins, families face the annual task of managing their children’s education with often-hectic work schedules. Fortunately, innovative leaders and generous donors at the SOCSD have come up with a new before- and after-school program called Wildcat Kids Club. 


Hosted at West Sedona School, the Wildcat Kids Club expands the after-school-only program. Beginning August 16, Wildcat Kids Club opens at 6:30 a.m. every school day and the after-school component expands, running until 6 p.m. The district will continue providing transportation until 4 p.m., but parents will have to arrange for pick up between four and six. “Expanding until 6 p.m. should make it easier for parents to pick up since 6 p.m. is near the end of the workday for many,” said SOCSD Superintendent Dennis Dearden.


The program is offered at no charge for all kindergarten through fifth grade students registered in the district. Breakfast will be available, and children will have educational and social options, from completing homework to activities such as biking, yoga, dance, tutoring, and robotics. “We don’t look at it as babysitting,” Dearden said. “We want kids to go home and say they were excited.” Teachers supervise all activities, supplemented by district support personnel.


The Wildcat Kids Club is made possible by a $104,000 donation from Mimi and Basil Maher. Dearden said giving youngsters more educational enrichment time is not the only reason for the expanded service. “Many people tell us it is hard to find workers,” Dearden said. Giving parents more flexibility may contribute to easing the local staffing shortage. “It may also encourage workers to come to Sedona and make the opportunity to enroll in our schools more appealing,” he added.  


If your family qualifies – you must have a K thru 5 student enrolled in the district – contact West Sedona School principal Aaron Coleman at 928-204-6601 or coleman@sedonak12.org. There is no deadline to apply – students can join any time during the school year.


The Club will be evaluated quarterly, and if successful enough to continue past the first year, when the Maehr’s generous funding expires, the community and the district must work together to identify funding sources. Dearden says $104,000 is the estimated annual cost, and the program will presumably cost at least that much in the following years. “It will have to be self-sustaining,” he said. “I believe our community will come together (to support the program). We will be applying for grants and searching for other funding options.”


The Wildcat Kids Club is a welcome service we hope continues well into the future. We salute Basil and Mimi Maher for their generosity, and we encourage our members and participating families to support the program in years to come. Ideas like the one shows our local schools not only educate our children but find solutions that help make Sedona a more sustainable community.

-Candace Carr Strauss,