Pekin Community High School will for the first time offer full-day child care for faculty, staff and their family members during the 2018-19 school year.
Children ages 6 weeks to 5-years-old will be accepted into the child care program called Little Dragons Early Childhood Education Center.
Assistant Superintendent Melissa Bloom said the high school wanted to offer this program so the staff can have their children at work. It will be a day care or pre-school setting depending on the child’s age. They will work on age-appropriate developmental skills. PCHS will provide breakfast and snacks, but children will bring their own lunches each day.
The infant class is full and their pre-kindergarten class has seven or eight spots still available. The facility for the program was renovated. They now have bathrooms within the classrooms, and the toilets and drinking fountain are height appropriate for the young learners. They also have sensory tables, a dramatic play area, reading corner, math station and an enclosed playground area with equipment. There is also a nursing room for new moms for a private place to nurse or pump.
Superintendent Danielle Owens said this is “a fairly unique program.” She does not know of any other schools in the area that offer a day care or pre-school for children of teachers or staff members.
“I know big corporations sometimes offer it to their employees, but I don’t know of schools around here that do,” she said. “We wondered, what is a perk we can offer to employees and potential employees that is not monetarily based. We will offer extended hours for staff meeting days.”
Owens said that staff members who have a child or children enrolled in the school’s child care program will have the cost deducted from their paychecks.
High school students who take Child Care I and Child Care II will be helping with the Little Dragons. Students in Child Care I will create educational lessons using a theme for the pre-school portion of the class, serve snacks, create gross motor activities and interact with the children to help them develop in all developmental areas. They will also take care of the infants and toddler and create Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) activities.
The Child Care students will create a graduation program and Christmas program for the Little Dragons. Child Care II students will also assist in helping with the children in the center in the afternoon.
Instructor Patricia Meyer has reached out to several departments to collaborate on projects. This is her 12th year at PCHS. Art students will get to practice their face painting skills on the pre-school children. She has discussed a parent and student luncheon where the culinary arts students prepare the meals. Meyer has also discussed offering basic foreign language with the foreign language department.
“I am looking forward to being able to give the students a true experience of what it is like in a center based child care center,” Meyer said. “Also, I feel the students will create better lessons, because they will teach their own lessons three times. I feel this is a great opportunity not only to my students but to the staff to be able to have their children on site. We are looking forward to the interaction with other classes and people from the community to give our little ones a wide experience in many areas. The only challenge I see is getting my students trained soon enough so they can go into the center and do the job expected of them. The students have done a great job in the past, and I feel it will only get better.”
PCHS students will gain real-life skills in the program. Bloom said they will develop lesson plans, and they will have to follow Department of Children and Family Services rules just like adults who work in day cares do.
“By the time (PCHS students) are done with this program, they will have their EC1 certificate to get a job at a day-care or latch-key program,” said Bloom. “Our interns for our internship program can now stay in the building. Before this, they had to provide their own transportation to grade schools, and for some that was difficult. Now they can stay here and still gain experience.”