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Summer Day Care gives kids a safe learning environment

Rebecca Burk Ellis / L’Observateur / July 6, 1998

Parents who work and didn’t know how they could possibly afford child care during summer months had no problem finding a safe, educational and fun-packed place to bring their children to this summer.

And not only is it safe, fun and educational, but it’s also free to parents who qualify.

The program is the St. John the Baptist Parish Summer Day Care program,and kids who are 0 to 12 and have working parents with a low income can attend.

“It’s a child care program to assist working parents who are having a difficult time affording child care in the summer,” Stephenie Watkins, program director, said. “And we provide not only child care but recreationand extra curricular activities for the children to have fun, too.”The program is funded by the Social Services Department, but St. JohnSchool employees are in charge.

Watkins said 406 children are enrolled in the three sites of the program, which are at East St. John Elementary in LaPlace, the St. John ChildDevelopment Center in Garyville and West St. John Elementary in Edgard.Children continue to learn during the summer so they don’t lose their knowledge, Orlando Watkins, director of the program at East St. JohnElementary, said. The subjects teachers focus on are reading, math andscience.

But it’s not just through classroom lectures.

“We try to make it fun, as opposed to school,” Orlando Watkins said. “Wewant them to think this is a fun place where they can enrich their learning from school.

“It helps sometimes,” he added, “because they don’t always get the instruction they need in school. So they can pick it up here.”He added that instruction time is limited to 50 minutes, then the children are shuttled off to some kind of recreation or fun activity.

And those are plentiful. Every Tuesday the children who attend theprogram go swimming at the St. John Recreation Department pool. OnWednesdays they go bowling, and on Thursdays they go skating.

Those are just the off-campus activities. On campus, they have karate anddance lessons, arts and crafts and outdoor recreation, in addition to all of the hands-on opportunities to learn.

They also have a computer lab, which wasn’t available to them last year, Watkins said. “It gives them the benefit of the use of a computer,” he said.”It gives them an opportunity they would not normally get at home.”And the addition of a computer lab is only one of the ways the program is growing. More children are enrolling. Last year only about 65 were enrolledat the East St. John Elementary site, and this year over 150 are enrolled.”From last year to this year we have experienced a significant growth in the program and look forward to expanding it even more,” Watkins said.

“Hopefully we will get the funding because this is money well-spent.

These kids will benefit in the upcoming school year.”

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