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RSU 29, Champions partner to provide after school care program

HOULTON, Maine — Parents of young students often struggle with care options between the time that school is released and they get done work.

For many families, it means shuttling their children to daycare facilities and then returning to work.

To help with this transition, RSU 29 has partnered with Champions, a national after school program open to any children in pre-kindergarten to sixth grade. About 16 students are currently participating in the program, but officials are eager to expand that number.

RSU 29 Superintendent Ellen Halliday said Friday that the Champions program was added by the district to help fill a need for after school care and support for students.

“I had been speaking with another superintendent in southern Maine about after school options for youth in our areas,” Halliday said. “He subsequently found himself in a conversation with a manager for the Champions program and gave him my name.”

Mercedes Johnson plays on a floor mat while attending the Champions after school program at Houlton Elementary School. The program is a new addition to both RSU 29 and SAD 1 this school year. (Joseph Cyr)

Halliday said her interest in adding the program to RSU 29 was to give parents another avenue for opportunities for their children after school.

“We are limited in rural areas,” she said. “Currently, RSU 29 provides an after school program for grades 3-5 through a 21st Century Grant. However, that program is by invitation (for students in need of additional instruction) and limited to only a few grades. The Military Street Baptist Church also offers an after school program, but I felt that there was room for another opportunity.”

Houlton and Presque Isle are currently the only two school districts in the state that have partnered with Champions.

Christine Hunt serves as the site director at Houlton Elementary School, while Tara Challoux serves as one of the instructors. The program runs from 2:20 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Houlton Elementary School. On early-release days for the district, the program begins at 11:30 a.m. The company operates on a 13-to-1 student to staff ratio.

“We are really targeting the working class family,” Challoux said. “When the kids come in for the day, we first make sure they do their homework and have a snack. Then we have a curriculum we follow.”

That curriculum includes time each day to explore their own interests in areas like creative arts, library, math/construction, puzzles/games, science/computers and physical activity/fitness.

According to the company’s website, “Champions partners with principals, teachers, and parents to create more than 470 before- and after-school and year-round learning environments that spark wonder in children.”

Storm Mathias, area manager for Champions, said that as a member of the KinderCare Education family of brands, Champions is backed by the resources and expertise of one of the world’s largest education companies. KinderCare Education serves 200,000 children in 39 states, and Champions specifically serves more than 19,000 of those children in 16 states and Washington, D.C.

“With more than 25 years of experience, Champions is recognized for our leadership in delivering extended learning programs that are tailored specifically to a school’s needs and that provide busy working parents with a safe, convenient program where their child’s potential is fostered through engaging learning experiences,” Mathias said. “We were recently awarded the prestigious distinction of corporation accreditation by AdvancED, a global leader in advancing excellence in education through accreditation.”

Storm Mathias, area manager for Champions, was at Houlton Elementary School Feb. 6 to check out Champions latest program. Mathias, far right, is seen playing a game of “Sorry” with Reuben Redmond, left, and Jude Robinson.
(Joseph Cyr)

While Champions charges a fee for its service, it is very much in line with other child care options, Halliday said. The cost is $38 per week for 1-2 days enrollment; $57 per week for three days; $66 per week for four days; and $75 per week for five days. Discounts are available for multiple children in the family, military and district employees.

“The RSU 29 School Board saw the Champions program as a good choice for many parents who might be seeking an alternative to simply child care,” Halliday said. “Champions provides a snack, play times, homework time and also has a curriculum based element providing students with new learning and exploration opportunities. We are hopeful that this top notch program becomes a valuable asset for our parents and students.”

During the month of February, the program is providing two free trial days for any students to check out the program. Subsidy assistance also is available for those who wish to enroll their children, but are unable to afford it.

For more information on the Champions After School program visit: www.discoverchampions.com.

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