WINDSOR — The Mattoon Area Family YMCA's before and after school programs have expanded this fall to include Windsor Elementary School.
YMCA staff members lead these programs for students in grades kindergarten through sixth on site at Windsor Elementary, starting at 6:30 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. on each full school day.
Principal April Drake, who is new to this administrative post in 2019-2020, said Windsor Elementary had not offered any general before or after school programs prior to the YMCA's services starting this fall.
"This program has been a wonderful opportunity for our parents to have before and after school care," Drake said. "The YMCA has been wonderful to work with as a partner."
YMCA Youth Development Director Kayla Kerner said Windsor Superintendent Erik VanHoveln reached out to the Y about helping meet childcare needs in his district after getting a referral from the Mattoon school district.
The YMCA has long offered before and after school programs at the Coles County based Mattoon district's elementary schools. The Y expanded these programs to Cumberland Elementary in fall 2018 and to Neoga Elementary in spring 2019 as it prepared to open the Neal Center YMCA branch in Toledo, all of which are Cumberland County communities.
Windsor Elementary is the first school based in Shelby County to host a Mattoon YMCA before or after school program. This school is also one of the locations where the Y offers a Girls on the Run physical activity-based, youth development program after school on certain days of the week.
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Kerner said the Windsor location, like the YMCA's programs elsewhere, offers a mixture of free play, study time, and structured activities, such as crafts and group games. She said many of the activities focus on the science, technology, engineering, art and math curriculum that the Y has been developing for its school and day camp programs.
"We are definitely looking to grow," Kerner said of the new Windsor program. "We want to meet the needs of the kids there."
Windsor parent Therese Nichols, who works in Mattoon, said she enrolled her 11-year-old son in the new after school program this fall after previously having him ride the school bus to the home of his childcare provider in Gays. She said having Devon take part in a program on site at Windsor Elementary near their home has been convenient.
Nichols said she appreciates that the Windsor location's supervisor, Jasmine Zermeno, gives all of her students individualized attention, including helping Devon study for his spelling tests.
"It's a safe place where I can have him after school. Ms. Jasmine takes really good care of Devon," Nichols said. She noted that students in this program are also eligible for day camps at the Mattoon YMCA when school is not in session, so she also plans to send her son to some of these camps.