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Paynesville Press - June 7, 2006

Childcare - before and after school - to start next fall at PAES

By Addi Larson

Working parents and single parents alike have expressed a need for a convenient, positive, and safe childcare program for school-age children before and after school, according to Matt Dickhausen, the director of the Paynesville Area Community Education and organizer of the Bulldog Kid's Club.

Bulldog Kid's Club is a brand new childcare program for students grades K-5 in Paynesville, which will be starting next fall on the first day of school (Tuesday, Sept. 5).

It will be offered Mondays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. before school and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. after school in Room 166 at Paynesville Area Elementary School. "We're pretty excited about the program, said Dickhausen. "We think it's going to meet a need that's out there."

The before- and after-school programs are separate and should be registered for individually. The cost per child is $4 each day or $8 each day if a child attends both before and after school. Also, a one-time, non-refundable registration fee of $25 will be due with each separate registration form.

Dickhausen said that parents will desire to have their school-age kids at childcare at varying hours and is currently developing guidelines and policies, which will accommodate schedules and costs for parents. Bulldog Kid's Club might be offered all day on occasions such as quarter breaks at school.

Dickhausen also said he hopes to offer a flex-account through parents' employers, which would utilize pre-tax dollars. Because the program is in its infancy, scholarships and discounts for families with multiple children have not yet been developed, he said. "It's a program in the works," he added.

An empty classroom, the playground, and the gym are among areas expected to be used for the Bulldog Kid's Club at PAES. Dickhausen said there will also be field trips, most likely on non-school days. "It's a mildly structured program," Dickhausen said, noting that the kids will have been structured all day in school and may need a break. There will still be homework assistance and enrichment programs, as well as arts and crafts; outdoor games; story time; table and group games; quiet time; and recreational activities.

Dickhausen said he will be looking for both adults and high school students to lead and assist the program, adding that this would be an excellent part-time job for high school students interested in a career in childcare management or elementary education. "We're gonna be looking for the best qualified people," he said. He will be advertising for and hiring the staff this July.

Dickhausen said that he looked into starting this program in 2004 and surveyed parents of PAES students. He took his idea to the Community Education advisory committee and found that people in the community are increasingly in need of the program.

He then visited several programs and modeled Bulldog Kid's Club after districts our size, mainly after the program in New London-Spicer. According to Dickhausen, home childcare providers have offered positive attitudes, sharing with him that this will allow room for more full-time scheduled children into their own programs. Staff members at PAES are hopeful that Bulldog Kid's Club will decrease the number of kids being dropped off an hour before morning classes begin.

Currently, students wait in the elementary gym until 8 a.m., when they can go to their classrooms. "They need to be supervised," Dickhausen said. The childcare program will also be used as a dropoff spot by the bus company should a K-5 student not have an adult at home.

Parents need to register their school-age kids as early as possible, said Dickhausen. In early August, he will organize relevant information into the computer system. He also said that knowing the numbers in advance will allow him to plan for program needs, such as hiring the staff; arranging the food and other supplies; planning the activities; and reserving the space needed.

Parents should be aware that they will not be able to drop off their children on the first day without prior registration. A calendar will be sent out to registered parents, who may then write in the dates and times their kids will attend and return it to the program leaders. Dickhausen said that if parents become stressed about the program or simply have questions, they are welcome to call him or stop by the Community Education office.

Dickhausen explained that he plans to have the program run all year once it is well received in the fall. This way, parents have the option of using this program alone or adding it to their pre-established childcare. Parents will also have the opportunity to register their kids in the middle of the school year if spots are available.

To register, Dickhause said parents may pick up a registration form at the Paynesville Area Community Education Office at 801 West Highway 23 (the old middle school office). Parents may also stop by the fitness center, which is open until 9 p.m.. More information is available online at Online registration will be available in September 2007.

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