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YMCA offers new day care option

Monday could be called the humble beginning for the new Before- and After-School Program offered by the New Richmond Area YMCA.

A couple students attended the morning session of the program's first day, while five students were on hand for the afternoon portion.

Following school, kids interacted with Cheryle Nelson, the new program's director, and Mary Anderson, the coordinator for all of the YMCA of Greater St. Paul's school-aged care programs. Anderson was on hand to get the program off to a smooth start.

The students and caregivers played an active game in the gym at West Elementary to start the afternoon, then retreated to the hallway for a healthy snack. Then it was time for more quiet activities, such as playing games, drawing and art projects.

Nelson admitted the program (titled Yschool Age Program) was off to a slow start, but she expects things to pick up.

"I worked in the Stillwater program for a long time, and this reminds me of the start they had," she said. "With any luck, the program will grow very quickly."

The New Richmond Area YMCA started the before- and after-school program following a parent survey that showed a demand for such services.

The program is housed at West Elementary, although the YMCA hopes to expand it to East Elementary in the future if participation picks up.

The before-school session begins at 6 a.m. for parents who have to drop their kids off early on their way to work. The after-school session runs until 6 p.m.

Even though only 10 students have signed up so far, Nelson predicts that number will rise in the near future as families learn more about the program.

"We've got plenty of room," she said while looking across a nearly empty gym. "Once the numbers start picking up, there will be other staff hired."

A higher number of participants will be required to sustain the program through the summer and next school year, Nelson added.

The YMCA is the largest child care provider in the nation. The organization serves 330,000 children each year at 8,000 sites nationwide. The YMCA of Greater St. Paul coordinates 35 Yschool Age Care programs in the region, including River Falls and Hudson.

In the New Richmond program, parents can sign up their children for every day care or a few days a week. The program also offers an occasional care option, where students can attend on an irregular basis.

Nelson said to take advantage of the occasional care option, parents need to pre-register their children and notify the program a day ahead if their child will be attending.

"They need to pre-register so we can have their emergency information on hand," she noted.

The YMCA program follows a structured schedule every day. A month-long calendar outlines some of the planned activities for the future.

As an example, every Wednesday is arts and humanities day. Activities will focus on those curriculum areas. Every other Friday is science and technology day, where students will learn about a specific science or technology topic.

Plans also include teaching American sign language, conflict resolution, health and wellness, and even simple Spanish.

As Monday afternoon progressed, parents arrived at the school to bring their children home. For the most part they found excited, happy kids.

Russ Trout, parent of elementary student Samantha Trout, said he appreciates that the YMCA has started the new offering.

"I think it's a great program," he said. "It keeps the kids in a school environment, and it gives them more structure rather than going and spending an hour or two at someone else's house."

Trout said the after-school program fills the 45-minute gap between the time school ends and he gets off work.

Mary Anderson, YMCA child care coordinator, said the program gives many parents peace of mind knowing their child is taken care of in the hours following school.

"They don't have to worry about being stuck in traffic or leaving late from work," she said.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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