Y partners with school district to offer day care solution

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 10:14 a.m.

Parents who face a lengthy commute to and from work will be able to ease some of the stress in their daily routine this fall.

The Ligonier Valley School District will partner with the Ligonier Valley YMCA to provide before- and after-school care for students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade, beginning at the start of the school year.

“Upon speaking with the Y and talking with parents and staff in the Ligonier Valley School District, we found there's a need for before- and after-school care in the area,” said elementary school principal Ed Moran. “What are parents going to do with their child if they have to be at work at 8 a.m., and school doesn't start until 9 a.m.? This program solves that problem. It's a convenient, viable, safe option for children.”

The district surveyed parents several months ago, asking if they would be interested in enrolling their children if such a program were offered. Out of more than 250 surveys distributed, approximately 16 returned to the school, revealing four positive responses, Moran said. Face-to-face conversations with parents and community members exposed the need for before- and after-school care, according to Moran.

The program will allow parents to drop off their students at Laurel Valley Elementary as early as 7 a.m. before class starts, where two YMCA staff members will supervise students, providing a healthy snack and educational activities. When school dismisses at 4 p.m., students can report to the designated area again for a snack and activities. Parents must pick up their students by 6 p.m.

The activities will foster socialization as well as emotional, mental and physical development, according to YMCA Director of Child Development Sarah Byrne-Houser. YMCA staff will organize a set of activities for each day, focusing on topics like art, language, literacy, healthy lifestyles and decision-making.

“We want students to experiment with different types of activities, projects and hands-on learning that they might not necessarily get during the school day,” Byrne-Houser said.

Some possible activities include planting a garden in the schoolyard and duplicating art from a particular time in art history. Byrne-Houser plans to utilize the gymnasium, library and computer lab, designing activities for students according to grade level.

The cost of enrollment will vary per student, depending upon the duration of a student's time at the program. Some parents may qualify for applicable state subsidies or scholarships from the YMCA.

Concerning safety, Moran said the school and YMCA staff will communicate with parents to ensure students are picked up by the correct adult. Parents will also have to fill out emergency contact forms.

Elementary school assistant principal Wayne Waugh said the safety of students will remain top priority, just like during the school day. Students will be located in a locked area in the school near the cafeteria, and parents will have to be buzzed in to enter the building, he said.

While the school and YMCA have yet to hire supervisors for the program, Byrne-Houser said they plan to do job listings for a group supervisor, which will require a related degree, and an assistant, which will not require as strict certification. Both positions will require Act 33 and 34 clearances and FBI clearances.

According to Byrne-Houser, Greensburg YMCA successfully hosts similar programs with other schools. The future of Ligonier Valley's program relies on the number of students enrolled by January 2014. As long as at least 10 students are enrolled, the YMCA will continue to work with the school to create a safe and supervised environment for students, before and after school. Moran said regardless of enrollment numbers, the district will still find a way to continue the program.

“I think just programming and providing high quality care will keep parents interested,” Moran said. “Word of mouth will have a lot to do with continued enrollment.”

The district and YMCA will review feedback from parents, staff, students and district personnel to define improvements and modifications for the program in the future.

For more information, contact the Laurel Valley Elementary School at 724-238-5476 or the Ligonier Valley YMCA at 724-238-7580.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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