Boulder Elementary School is now offering a child care program for kindergarteners through the end of the school year and prompted by schedule changes brought on by the pandemic.
The program is being funded by a $40,000 School-aged Child Care grant offered through the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the school’s literacy grant.
The School Aged Child Care grant is part of $50 million in CARES Act funding that was allocated by Gov. Steve Bullock to maintain and expand child care throughout the state.
Rochelle Hesford, who obtained the grant and is administering the program, said this was done to support families this year coping with shortened school days due to COVID-19, as well as there being no school on Fridays dueto the pandemic schedule change.
“We started with a kindergarten program because they have two half day classes,” said Hesford, adding that the program, which began in October, runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
The program is free to families and so far, has 15 students, but Hesford wants to expand it to about 30 as the school has recently hired two more staffers, for a total of three.
Hesford is trying to keep the teacher and student ratio at 1:10 to 1:12.
The CARES Act funding runs through the end of December and the school’s Literacy Grant will be used to pay for the program through the end of the school year, said Hesford.
Boulder Elementary is also offering an after school program on Mondays through Thursdays, with staggered end times up to 4:45 p.m. to reduce congestion, said Hesford.
This is also being paid for with the CARES Act funding until the end of December, and then it will be absorbed into the 21st Century grant so that it can continue through the end of the school year, said Hesford.
The after school program is being held at the Boulder United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall and Hesford is hoping to add Fridays through the end of December.
To maintain COVID-19 precautions, the after school program at the Methodist Fellowship Hall has created family pods, where those who are normally exposed to each other will have their own room, said Hesford. Those not in a family pod attend the program at the school.
Parents are also being offered Active Parenting Now classes, The classes, taught by Nita McCauley, are two hours a week for six weeks and funded through a Montana Healthcare Foundation grant that Jefferson County helped the school to obtain, said Hesford.
Hesford said the child care programs are free and provided a solution to the gap that resulted from the COVID-19 scheduling. She said it took longer than originally planned to get started, “but we’re there.”
“COVID has offered the opportunity to get creative. Being so restricted at school got me to look elsewhere,” said Hesford of program offerings.