KNIGHTSTOWN — Heather Hall doesn’t always get off work in time to pick up her son from school.
Her irregular work schedule means she’s had to rely on family to watch 9-year-old Elijah; they also have had to be “the bad guys” on Hall’s behalf, standing firm to make sure the Knightstown Middle School fourth-grader gets his homework done each night.
Then Hall learned of a new childcare option. This month, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County opened an extension at Knightstown Elementary, providing care for kindergarten through sixth-grade students and a space for students to do homework, use computers and play games until 6 p.m. every day school is in session. The expansion to Knightstown Elementary School aligns with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s philosophy of extending the organization’s reach, said unit director Candace Sexton. The Hancock County club saw a need for an after-school program in an under-served community and sought to fulfill that need, she said.
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School officials first approached the Hancock County club last year to find out how starting an extension would work, citing parent surveys that expressed the need for child care in the area, Sexton said. The program, club leaders decided, would operate similarly to the Boys and Girls Clubs extension at Eastern Hancock Elementary School, through which students become a member of the club (a one-time $40 charge) and pay a weekly $40 fee to cover the cost of supervision and snacks, Sexton said. The weekly fees completely cover the cost of employing a part-time employee to run the extension, meaning no taxpayer money will leave the county to fund Knightstown’s program, Sexton said.
After parent surveys indicated the need for a supervised after-school option, administrators researched a number of options, said Danielle Carmichael, Knightstown Elementary School principal. School officials at Eastern Hancock schools spoke highly of their extension program through the Hancock County club, encouraging Carmichael to reach out to club leaders, she said.
“In the past couple years, more and more parents we surveyed said it would be nice to have some kind of after-school program,” she said. “This is our pilot program this semester, to find out how many kids will attend and how it all will work.”
One staff member, Tori Faust, oversees about 15 kids each day from 2:40 p.m. to 6 p.m., starting with a homework “power hour,” to encourage students to get their nightly homework done, Faust said.
She works one on one with any kids who need help, and then the group visits the computer lab and library. The day ends with games and activities, she said.
There’s a lot of flexibility, allowing students to follow their interests, she said.
Spending time in the gym near pick-up time works out for a number of reasons, Faust said. The school remains locked down during the after-school program, so parents have to call in to let Faust know they’re ready to pick up their kids; the gym is near the front door to the school, she said.
Faust has enjoyed getting to know the students who attend the after-school club extension, she said. Formerly a social worker, Faust decided to take on the role of extension supervisor not only because she has children in the school district but also to experience a less stressful job that still allowed her to work with children, she said.
If more students become members of the club extension, Faust plans to reach out to high school students who could volunteer as helpers during homework time and the more relaxed play hours, she said. That would allow the extension to take more children.
Parent feedback has been positive about the program, which has no cost for the school district, Carmichael said.
For parents like Heather Hall, it’s been helpful to have another person encouraging her son to do what he needs to do to succeed.
“So far, I really like it,” she said. “They have been really great working with me and him, making sure he … gets his work done. It’s a big kudos to them.”
Starting this month, Knightstown Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County have teamed up to provide an after-school extension of the club at Knightstown Elementary.
To participate, students must pay a $40 one-time fee to become members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County, plus a $40 weekly fee to cover the costs of supplies and snacks.
For more information, contact Knightstown Elementary School at 765-345-2151.