Child care is hard to come by in San Luis Obispo County. According to the SLO County Child Care Planning Council Needs Assessment released in 2018, there's a shortage of child care and lack of choices for parents countywide, especially in high-cost communities such as San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Cambria, and Templeton.
Templeton Unified School District is looking to fill the gap by proposing a partnership to bring in a curriculum-based program for before- and after-school care.
Joe Koski, Templeton Unified's superintendent, said the district would like to work with Discover Champions, a private provider with more than 500 before- and after-school and year-round programs in 39 states.
The proposal, Koski said, is a direct response to community feedback that the district has received: There are very limited options for community members for early childhood care. While Koski's been hearing about this need for the last four to five years, the district didn't have the extra space to house a program on school grounds.
"In the past, our limitation has always been facilities, but now that we have completed or will be completing a lot of the new construction and modernization that has come from our Measure H12 bond that our community was gracious enough to provide for us, we have some kind of non-classroom spaces that will be available beginning next year," he said.
It just makes sense, he said, to identify this as the right time to bring in the service that the parents in the community have been asking for, if approved by the school board.
There isn't a price on the proposal just yet, but that information along with how much the service will cost parents will be presented to the school board at its June 13 meeting.
Koski said the intent of that meeting would be for the board to make a decision about whether the district will put this program in place for the 2019-20 academic school year.
Tricia Fox, partnership manager for Champions, said she wants to highlight that Discover Champions has an accreditation from AdvanceED, an organization that reviews and certifies education programs around the world. Having spent time as a teacher and a principal, Fox said that Champions implements a bit more structure than most before- and after-school programs to keep students engaged in learning beyond traditional school hours.
"The biggest thing for prospective clients to see when they come to one of our centers is the kids are fully immersed in the programs. And we also use research to figure out the best practices in after-school care when creating a curriculum that allows students to have fun and explore their interests," Fox said.
Daily activities usually center on homework time, fitness and group games, snack time, welcome activities (journal time and daily challenges), theme-related activities (such as building bridges or whirly birds), and interest areas.
Those interest areas can include creative arts or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Fox said Champions can provide the program with iPads, so students can learn coding or game design, all with the goal of peer-to-peer collaboration. The programs are crafted to reinforce the four C's of 21st century learning: collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking.
She said implementing Champions' programs would not only be a potential benefit to students and parents but also to the community, as there would be a need for teachers to facilitate the program.
A potential local hire has to meet the provider's licensing requirements. If they don't meet the minimum requirements but are the right fit for Champions, Fox said the provider would pay for them to go to school to meet them.
Champions has had a long partnership with Atascadero Unified School District, and the program has been beneficial for parents like Monica Baldwin. She has a fourth grader in San Gabriel Elementary School who's been in the after-school program since she was in first grade.
Baldwin and her husband both work, and she said the program made sense for her family because of their demanding schedules. Over the last four years, she's seen how much her daughter has grown, and she attributes the leadership skills she's acquired to Champions.
"This year, she wanted to be a student representative for her class at school and she also did that student council," Baldwin said.
That kind of support for parents and their kids is exactly what Champions aims to achieve, Fox said.
"We're here to reinforce learning objectives, strengthen the community, and help hard-working families get more out of their day," Fox said. Δ
Staff Writer Karen Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.