Monday care options for Peach County parents on the rise

PEACH COUNTY — Nancy Harper was stunned when her husband told her Peach County was adopting a four-day school week.

Her mind raced, trying to figure out how to care for her daughter Anna, a third-grader at Byron Elementary School, on Mondays.

“I was just so shocked that I couldn’t believe it,” Harper said. “It was such short notice to the parents.”

Peach County students were originally scheduled to return to school today, but the school system announced July 24 it would go to a four-day schedule in order to save about $400,000 in operating and transportation costs.

Susan Clark, Peach County schools superintendent, said the school board considered how its decision would affect parents and students on Mondays, but ultimately concluded the system could no longer afford the normal five-day week.

“Providing child care really is not the responsibility of the school system,” Clark said. “We just educate children.”

With her mind still firmly on Anna, Harper went to her job at Byron Baptist Church Agape Way Daycare, where she learned the church planned to offer child care on Mondays.

The church wasn’t alone; organizations across Peach County stepped forward to offer supervised care or tutoring for students.

Down the road in Fort Valley, Paul Dominguez, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Georgia Heartlands, said its sites in Fort Valley and Byron will be available to all club members for an additional $10 fee Mondays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Dominguez said the club likely will focus on recreation activities for the children and could restructure the program as it moves along. He said he is looking forward to the students returning.

“The Peach County schoolkids are our kids,” Dominguez said. “We don’t want kids roaming the streets unsupervised.”

At Camp Vinson Valley in Byron, camp director Andy Moore is accustomed to dealing with 120 children during the summer. Keeping the camp open Mondays for students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade was just an extension of that program. From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the camp plans to offer recreational activities ranging from swimming to canoeing and kayaking for $20 per day.

“This is a big event,” Moore said. “It won’t just be putting them in a room keeping them entertained.”

Jesse Fortson, pastor of Byron Baptist Church Agape Way, said providing an option for Peach students on Mondays was simply a matter of reconfiguring the format of the church’s current day-care program to suit older children.

The church plans to offer a Monday tutoring ministry to students from first through eighth grades. Between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., paraprofessionals and some teachers are expected to assist students in the areas of math, science, literature and grammar at a cost of $15 per day. Fortson said the ministry is expected to target up to 200 students.

“It’s a great way for us to serve the community by fulfilling the need,” Fortson said.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-5650.