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Cranberry's before-school program gives parents flexibility

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Kailey McCune, 9, and other children have fun playing in the gymnasium during the before-school program at the Cranberry Municipal Center, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. The program serves children whose parents start work before the school day begins.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Shayla Kemp, 5, smiles while playing a game of Uno during the before- school program at the Cranberry Municipal Center on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. The program serves children whose parents start work before the school day begins.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Josh Andree, coordinator of the before-school program, plays with children at the Cranberry Municipal Center, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. The program serves children whose parents start work before the school day begins.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Macy Hampson, 7, concentrates while playing a game of Uno during the before-school program at the Cranberry Municipal Center on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. The program serves children whose parents start work before the school day begins.

Linda Denny, a social worker from Cranberry and a mother of two, has to arrive at work at 7:30 a.m. — an hour before school starts for her two girls.

“It's always been tricky to figure out what to do with my girls,” Denny said.

Cierra, 11, and Cassie, 7, spend 90 minutes before school at Cranberry's municipal building, where the township has started a before-school program for parents like Denny.

About 25 children between ages 5 and 12 from Haine, Rowan and Evans City elementary schools are in the first-year program.

Cranberry residents pay $25 a day, and others pay $28, which covers the program's operating cost.

Children arrive at 7 a.m. and leave in time to be at school by 8:30 a.m.

“The program started based on community surveys. This is something that a lot of people wanted,” said Pete Geis, Cranberry's director of parks and recreation, which runs the program.

It complements two other municipal programs: one for children ages 5 to 12 after school, which has about 55 students, and a preschool for children ages 3 to 5 that has morning and afternoon sessions.

“Cranberry has many families with young children, and we are serving a need,” Geis said.

Lisa Simon of Cranberry, a mother of two girls in the before-school program, said it is less expensive than either private day care or programs offered by the Seneca Valley School District.

“It's economic, and the girls love it,” said Simon, an administrative assistant.

Josh Andree, a parks and recreation worker who runs the program, said he expects the before-school program to increase in popularity.

“Lots of parents need to get to work before school starts. With the winter coming, we expect more children to be in the program,” he said.

Before-school programs are less common than after-school programs but just as important, said Jodi Grant, executive director of the After School Alliance in Washington, an advocacy group that works with 26,000 after-school providers. About one-third of them have before-school programs, she said.

“Before-school programs aren't just good for parents. (They're) good for kids. There's all kind of evidence that food and physical activity are an important start to a school day. The more of this we can do, the better,” Grant said.

About 8.4 million students attend after-school programs in the United States, she said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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