HICKORY – The recent snow days a couple of weeks ago brought up the question of where parents go if school is canceled but they still need someplace to take their child while they’re at work.

Community Schools of Catawba County provides one solution, the Kid Connection program.

Community Schools started in 1977 as a cooperative program among local school districts in Catawba County and is administered by Newton-Conover City Schools.

It offers quality school-age care services at elementary schools in Hickory City and Newton-Conover School Systems.

The program oversees facility use and renting of space at schools, but since the 1980s, Kid Connection has become the largest program in Community Schools.

Kid Connection is a licensed childcare program for before and after school care for ages up to 14 at schools throughout the county, but provides much more.

Because of increasing popularity, three years ago Kid Connection started the holiday camp for Christmas break and then the snow day camp was added, extending the services of the program. During the recent snow break, Kid Connection served 60 students between the Newton location at North Newton Elementary and Viewmont Elementary in Hickory.

“We keep those in two locations open to help meet parents’ needs at times like that,” Community Schools Director Kirsten Maynard said.

“We also work with families whose children aren’t ready to stay home alone or go home five days a week even if they’re in middle school,” Maynard said. “Then at Conover School we have pre-K so we have three and four-year-olds. We do a pre-K summer camp there as well.”

What makes Kid Connection more than just a day care facility is the relationship is has with the school systems. It’s allowed Maynard and her staff to create a real partnership with the faculty and parents at the schools they serve.

“We have access to the media center and the library,” Maynard said. “We can help maintain leaning and growth. It’s less of a transition for students. They go down the hall and they’re not being transported someplace else.”

Ashley Law has a son in first grade at South Newton Elementary and thinks the program is “perfect.”

“I have to work early in the morning and I don’t get off until around four o’clock,” Law said. “They help him with his homework. They read…work with his words. They’re very helpful.”

Another extra at Kid Connection is its adoption of the Leader in Me program which is focused on building a foundation of life skills the students can use the rest of their lives. It teaches seven habits: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergize and sharpen the saw.

“Our goal as we continue to evolve with Leader in Me is the children own and operate the program,” Maynard said.

Children serve snacks, help clean up their space in the school before leaving and some even have a small garden on the school grounds they maintain.

Ashley Law said her son talks about Leader in Me all the time and brings the concepts home with him.

Angela Farris is the new Kid Connection coordinator at South Newton, which was already a Leader in Me school, and she has been impressed with how the program has changed the students.

“They show each other more respect. There are no behavior issues with me,” Farris said. “It’s them showing leadership roles when their interacting with one another when they’re playing…they’re more proactive. They’re thinking about what they’re going to do before they do it.”

Farris said her students also focus on getting their homework done first before playing.

Kid Connection is self-funded generating its revenue from tuition so it is no cost to the school systems when it comes to paying for supplies and salaries.

Costs for Kid Connection: $25 a week per student for morning care starting at 6 a.m. and $45 a week for afternoon care with school dismissal to 6 p.m. For both, the weekly cost is $65.

For more information about the program, call 828-464-9355 or visit cs.newton-conover.org.

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