An intense game of red rover recently broke out at the elementary school. Kids raced across the dandelion-strewn grass with looks of sheer determination on their faces as they tried to plow through the linked arms of the other players.
The participants were elementary-aged students who are spending their summer at school, not for summer classes, but for child care. Out of necessity, schools are getting into the business of summer child care. Barnesville is in its third year. Hawley started a new school-run child-care program this year.
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"There’s so many parents that were looking for some sort of option in the summertime and they were not getting their needs met because the child-care centers and so on that are in this community are not big enough to hold all of the kids that need to be watched during the summer," said Steve Jordahl, Barnesville School District superintendent.
Phil Jensen, Hawley School District superintendent, helped start Barnesville’s program when he led that school. "There’s just a shortage, basically of day-care providers to begin with, and then that just gets multiplied when school is out," Jensen said. Before both programs started, school administrators consulted area child-care providers. "We did not want to go into competition with the existing day cares," Jensen said. "We’re not looking to take their business away from them, we’re looking to fill a need in the community."
Charlotte Nelson, owner of Grandma’s Lap Daycare, a home-based child-care service in Barnesville, says the school-run center is good for the community. She was involved in planning the program and said she hasn’t lost business to it. "It’s harder to have the school-age kids mixing with the littler ones," Nelson said. "You’re running yourself ragged to entertain each age group."
Melissa Keith, a home-based child-care provider in Hawley, worries about the program. "I think it could impact in a negative way but I know there are some providers that think it’s an OK thing because the older kids need more things to do in the summer," she said.
Both schools transport kids to summer activities like sports and music, which is harder for home-based providers to do. The programs also provide field trips and learning activities. "We want to teach them things, too, and kind of reinforce some of the learning that maybe they’ve learned throughout the school year," said Rachel Jonason, Barnesville Kids Club coordinator.
In Hawley recently, Cody Bourcher and Brandon Marvig were playing with addition and subtraction flashcards. Soon a group of students formed, wanting to play. "With this many kids and this many age ranges, you really have to keep an eye on it and make sure they’re all engaged and having fun together," said Paula Boucher, Hawley School District childcare coordinator. continue reading