Friday, October 9, 2020

School Age Child Care Program a valuable ally for families during pandemic

The Windham/Raymond School Age Child Care
staff gathers before the start of another day of
work. SACC is a high-quality, engaging safe
place for children, offering before- and after-school
programs as well as full-day programs during
remote learning days at Windham Primary School,
Manchester School and Raymond Elementary School.
By Ed Pierce

For students and parents in a school year rather unlike anything ever seen before, a trusted partner that they have come to rely on is the nonprofit Windham/Raymond School Age Child Care Program.

In operation since 2002, SACC operates before- and after-school locations at Windham Primary School, Manchester School, and both a Kindergarten to Grade 4 program and a Café Teen for fifth- through eighth-grade students at Raymond Elementary School. SACC strives to provide a high quality, engaging and safe place for children to attend before- and after-school programs as well as its full day programs during remote learning days this year.

The educators at SACC love what they do and are engaged with providing activities that promote well-being and confidence. We are being rigorous in promoting health and safety and have been taking extra measures to sanitize and disinfect the spaces we use for our programs.

“It gives us great joy to have our previously enrolled and newly enrolled children attend our program,” said Amanda Pinkston, SACC program director. “Having them back after all these months and hearing their conversations and laughter makes us excited to come to work.”

Pinkston said that the educators at SACC love what they do and are engaged with providing activities that promote well-being and confidence.

"We are being rigorous in promoting health and safety and have been taking extra measures to sanitize
and disinfect the spaces we use for our programs,” she said. “Currently our most significant challenge is navigating and updating our policies due to COVID-19. Thankfully, we have exceptional employees who are amazing at adapting to our policies in order to provide a safe and healthy place for our children in our program to attend. Besides following Maine CDC guidelines, we also consult with our childcare licensing specialist as well as our health care consultant to make sure we are always updated on the latest policies.”

SACC can employ up to 20 employees depending upon enrollment, which ran between 120 to 140 last year, but is expected to rise this school year because of remote learning days for RSU 14 students because of the pandemic. The program is open for all full days, vacation weeks, workshop days, and storm days, weather permitting.

It offers homework time where nutritious snacks are provided, outside time, enrichment time, as well as
free choice. Operating locations on school campuses means that students have an opportunity to participate in after-school activities and sports. SACC’s goal is to never have to have a child go home alone and being located in the schools also helps many of the children in their daily transitions from place to place.

SACC President Donna Cobb has been associated with SACC since its inception in 1990 along with SACC Board Member Jeanette Lamb and says that childcare has always been a part of their lives.

“I ran my own home family childcare for over 50 years and Jeanette did also,” Cobb said. “We both feel childcare is so very much needed at the school age level. Being the president of the board, this very successful program gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.”

Being a nonprofit, fundraising activities help defray some of the program’s expenses, but the pandemic forced a lot of the nonprofit’s fundraisers to be scrubbed earlier this year.

“When the pandemic hit in March, we were in the registration process of enrolling for our annual childcare conference we hold at the high school every year, so that was cancelled. We also cancelled our annual shredding event we hold every May,” Cobb said. “Because we were not able to be open in the schools, we laid everyone off except the program director. In August we rehired everyone back and
proceeded with reopening for school. There have been no fundraisers yet. Our next fundraisers tentatively planned are the childcare conference in March and shredding on May 1.” 

SACC Business Manager Julia Trepanier said childcare is about as essential a service as it gets, and SACC is an invaluable resource for this community.

“I think SACC, as well as all of the childcare providers in Windham and Raymond, are important to the community,” Trepanier said. “SACC is very appreciative of RSU 14 for allowing is to operate in their facilities since 2002. I think many families appreciate that their children can walk from their classrooms after school right to their childcare program. Students not having to take a bus to their childcare facility is something parents have explained is a major bonus for them.”

She said that the most gratifying aspect of her work has been seeing all of the students, the students’ families and SACC team members enjoying the program.

“We are a nationally accredited program and that takes a great deal of work and maintenance,” Trepanier said. “We are so lucky to have such a dedicated, hard-working team to ensure we can offer a quality program.”

SACC Board Member Pam Whynot served as a kindergarten teacher in Windham for 40 years. After
her retirement, she worked for Learning Works in an after-school program at Reiche School.

“Donna Cobb, who I had known for a long time, contacted me to see if I would be willing to fill a board position that had become available. She thought my experience with Learning Works would be beneficial for the board,” Whynot said. “The most rewarding part was seeing what it takes to be an accredited childcare both state and national. It was impressive for me to see the benefit of those accreditations for the children and their parents.”   

Whynot said that a big challenge for SACC is providing full-day childcare currently as it has always been just before- and after-school care.

“Helping children with distance learning is challenging, as we serve many ages and grades. Finding space in the school is always a challenge as schools need many spaces for their needs also,” Whynot said. “Advertising is a must but at this time with limited income coming in, funds are tight. We need parents to know we are available for them.” 

Cobb said she’s sure that SACC has the right policies, staff and leadership to steer the nonprofit through the pandemic and they are grateful that the community and parents consider them to be a valuable ally at such a difficult and challenging time.

We try very hard to be accommodating in all circumstances,” she said. “That includes being open if possible, having hours that are accommodating and costs that are affordable. Pass the word that we are open and there are openings at the program.” <

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