Parents who work outside the home are often faced with the dilemma of finding safe, cost-effective child care for their children. St. Michael’s School in Penn Yan has sought to rectify that problem by unveiling its new Before and After School Activity center Sept. 8, the first day of the new school year.
The center, which is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each school day, is available only to St. Michael’s students in preschool through fifth grade. The center is self-supportive, and the cost of enrolling children is separate from the school’s tuition.
After paying a $20 registration fee, parents pay an hourly rate for the time their children spend at the center. The cost is $2.50 an hour for one child, $4 for two children and $5.50 for three children. At the end of each week, parents estimate how many hours their children will be at the center the following week and submit a prepayment for that amount. If the children end up staying longer than estimated, those hours are rolled over into the following week’s payment, said Denise Creedon, the center’s director. The sum of St. Michael’s tuition and enrollment in the activity center is actually cheaper than enrollment at some local day cares, she added.
The center is housed in the school in a former kindergarten room and includes a futon, bean-bag chairs and tables where the students can color, put together puzzles or work on their homework. The room also has an air-hockey table, a Sony PlayStation, blocks, board games and its own bathroom.
“It’s basically like a little home,” Creedon said.
There had been talk of starting such a center at St. Michael’s for several years, according to Jo Ann Struck, principal.
“When God wants it to happen, it’s going to happen, and everything fell into place this year,” Struck said. “We look at it as a service to the parents. We’re very happy with it.”
Creedon began working as a teacher’s aide at the school in 2002 when her 6-year-old son, Chase, passed away. She jumped at the opportunity to direct the new center.
“I wasn’t ready to stop being a mommy, and now I’m being a mommy to all these kids. It’s keeping me going; it’s giving me something to look forward to,” Creedon said.
Creedon and Struck said that parents so far have responded very favorably to the new center. As of Sept. 13, approximately 40 children were enrolled, and “we’ve been signing people up every day,” Creedon said.
Gloria Long recently enrolled her two sons in the center. She works part time and won’t always need to take advantage of its services, but she decided to try it out the second week of school. She signed up Michael, 8, and Brian, 7, for one week and was impressed with the results.
“I’ve been getting so much done it’s incredible, and they’re having a ball; that’s the best part of it,” Long said. After school Michael and Brian “get to put their backpacks on a hook and just play with their buddies. When I pick them up they’re happy and they’ve had a lot of exercise and they’ve been hanging with their buddies.”
The center is structured enough so that it is not chaotic, Long added, but relaxed enough that her children have fun and don’t feel like they’re still at school.
Most parents who’ve enrolled their children in the center have had similar experiences, Struck said.
“They’re delighted. I haven’t heard any negative comments,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the center, contact St. Michael’s School at 315/536-6112.