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Web posted Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Area schools offer child care programs

By Valerie Rowell
Staff Writer

Private day care isn't a parent's only option for after-school child care.

Each of the 17 Columbia County elementary schools offer before- and after-school programs.

Though program hours and costs vary by school, most begin the morning programs at 6:30 or 7 a.m. and end the afternoon programs at 6 p.m.

The Bobcat Before and After School Program at Blue Ridge Elementary School serves about 70 pupils in the morning and nearly that many after school, said Connie Manning, director of the program.

"We have a lot of working parents at our school," Manning said. "So it is just very convenient for them to leave them here. They don't have to worry about their children getting on a day-care van at the end of the day. ... It is peace of mind for them, too."

The programs are not organized through the school system county-wide and are operated independently by each school. Therefore, the details, including hours, costs and rules, may vary by school, said Michele Sherman, director of Student Learning for elementary grades.

"It is a nice program," said Julianne Coleman, director of Camp Eagle's Nest Extended Care Program at Martinez Elementary School. "I think it is definitely a benefit to the Martinez families and it is affordable."

The programs are usually lower priced than traditional day care, with costs $10-$20 weekly for the morning and $40-$50 for a week of afternoon sessions.

Combined prices are available for pupils who attend both morning and afternoon programs.

Another advantage of the school programs is keeping children from having to be transported from school to another facility, limiting travel time and risk, Coleman said.

Morning sessions include activities and allow the pupils to have breakfast. The afternoon sessions usually include a snack and homework time before games, play time and other activities.

"It is not only just a place for the children to be after school while they wait for their parents to get off work," Manning said. "It is also a place for them to get their homework done and get it right, because the teachers do go over it. ... That way, when they get home they can spend quality time with their parents."

Teachers and para-professionals run the programs and are available to help children with homework, though Manning recommends that parents review the assignments with their children.

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