The Lew Williams Center for Early Learning is one of 10 early learning centers R’Club serves
BY CINDY CARTER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – The first day of school is just around the corner and that means arranging before and after school care for the young’uns. It can be a daunting task for sure. But one organization has stood strong for decades all around Pinellas County and makes registration quick and easy.
Arthurene Williams, left, wife of the late Lew Williams and Keirsten Johnson, Family Engagement Specialist at the Lew Williams Center
R’Club has locations in some 26 elementary schools spread throughout the county. The cost is $65 a week for both before and aftercare. It also includes childcare for times when school is not in session such as teacher planning days and holidays.
“Parents still have to work,” said Executive Director Art O’Hara. “They can get 11 and a half hours of care on one of those teacher planning days.”
R’Club serves about 3,800 kids a day throughout the county starting from as early as eight weeks old. There are currently 10 early learning academies and preschools in Pinellas dedicated to providing quality learning opportunities promoting physical, social, emotional and cognitive development for youngsters up until the age of five.
“We are pretty busy,” said O’Hara. R’Club has been involved in the Summer Bridge program to help prevent summer learning loss and will continue to have a helping hand in the Promise Time Program, which works with the school system to provide tutoring for an hour after school to students identified as needing additional intervention.
Coordinated childcare is also available to middle school aged children through R’Club and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC). The CCLC provides academic enrichment opportunities, particularly those who attend high poverty and low performing schools. The program’s main focus is to provide assistance in reading and math through enrichment activities.
Local middle schools that currently have the CCLC program are Bay Point Middle, Tarpon Springs Middle, Dunedin Middle, Largo Middle, Morgan Fitzgerald Middle, Thurgood Marshall Middle, John Hopkins Middle, Meadowlawn Middle, Pinellas Park Middle and Tyrone Middle School.
R’Club aims to make childcare affordable for families. With a fee of $65 a week for both before and after school care, parents can feel confident that their child is safe and being taken care of while they work. Scholarships are available for families in need of a little extra assistance, but O’Hara cautions that funds can be depleted quickly and assistance is given out on a first come, first serve basis.
“Our dollars are limited so we’ll get to the people as soon as we can,” said O’Hara. That means that putting off registration and applying for the scholarship on the first day of school could mean a long stay on the waiting list. It’s best to start signing up now so the individual center can determine eligibility.
Applications can be picked up and filled out at each individual site, so head on down to your child’s school and get started.
“We’re taking them right now,” said O’Hara referring to applications for not only elementary and middle school before and aftercare, but also for the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program.
“It helps parents learn how to be their child’s first teacher,” explained O’Hara of the home visitor early literacy program that caters to three through five year olds. A national program, HIPPY aims to prepare preschool aged children with the necessary skills they need before entering Kindergarten.
By role-playing the activities provided with parents, families learn how to become more involved in their child’s learning process. The program is free and includes a weekly activity packet along with storybooks and other learning material.
R’Club has also implemented a slightly new program entitled Project Challenge. Its goal is to help preschools and family chapter homes adapt to help preschool children with disabilities become successful in getting placed properly in a center.
“It reduces kids from bouncing from childcare placement to childcare placement,” said O’Hara.
For more information on any of the programs mentioned or the many other programs and resources R’Club offers, check out their website at rclub.net. It has a complete listing of all the preschool and elementary schools that have an R’Club site on campus.
For more information on the HIPPY program, you can also call (727) 570-8841 for eligibility guidelines. And don’t forget to sign your child up for before and after school care at your child’s school. For additional questions, R’Club’s main office is located at 4140 49th St. N, or you can call them at (727) 578- KIDS (5437).