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Filling a community need

Posted 9/05/12 (Wed)

Filling a community need

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

It’s been said a lot lately that daycare is a hugely important issue in McKenzie County. What has been less publicized is that after-school care for working parents with school-age children is just as needed and almost as unavailable.
“After-school care is a big need in the Watford City community,” states Heather Wisness, board member of the First Lutheran Preschool and After-School Program. “There is little for elementary-age kids to do after school that has supervision and very few parents are able to find jobs that end around three o’clock when school dismisses.”
Wisness and the First Lutheran Preschool Board Members, Angie Pelton, Sandra Schmitz and Donna Johnson recently noticed a need, and with the support of the First Lutheran Church Board, Michelle DeHaven, the First Lutheran Church’s Preschool teacher and Patty Gunderson, her aide, something is being done to help the working parents of elementary- age children in McKenzie County.
DeHaven is new to the Watford City community, but her husband was raised here and has family that still lives here. Shortly after DeHaven moved to Watford City, the First Lutheran Preschool Board contacted her about a position as their new preschool teacher, and the possibility of running an after-school program.
“We started on the first day of school,” DeHaven states. “So far, things have been going well and we’ve had a lot of fun.”
According to Wisness, the program is licensed for up to 30 children and they still have openings for a few more children.
“We had 11 kids on the first week, and around 14 or 15 kids this week,” states DeHaven. “Next week, we are looking to add four more.”
The after-school program runs from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church educational building in Watford City. It is a state-licensed program for Kindergarten through fifth grade children that provides a nutritional snack and a designated homework time.
“We want to make sure the kids at least get started on their homework and get help if they need it,” DeHaven states.
There is also a planned activity time that the children can choose to participate in.
“Sometimes we go to the park, play games or do art projects,” states DeHaven. “We just want to have fun hanging out with the kids.”
Stacy Arnegard, a Social Worker for McKenzie County Social Services who licenses daycares and after- school programs, states that Watford has never had a structured after-school program.
“This is uncharted territory,” states Arnegard. “I am very proud of them for seeing a need and jumping in with both feet.”
According to Wisness, the community has a large need for all types of child care, but what school age children need is slightly different than infants and toddlers. Once children enter school, they seek more actively and social interaction compared to younger children who need hands-on care and constant direct supervision.
“We want to provide a safe and fun environment where the kids can come after school to relax, play or get help with their homework if they need it,” Wisness states.
According to Wisness, she, DeHaven and the First Lutheran Preschool and After-School Program have been working closely with Arnegard and the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency out of Minot to make sure they are following all the regulations and guidelines for their program.
“We are doing something new and it’s just been a great adventure,” DeHaven states.
Anyone interested in learning more about the program or enrolling a child can e-mail Michelle DeHaven at michelledehaven@hotmail.com.