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Youth group steps in to fill gap

The timing couldn't have better for Moorhead resident Greg Holland. His neighborhood in-home child-care provider closed up shop earlier this year. That left Holland wondering what to do with his two young daughters when school began this fall. Th...

The timing couldn't have better for Moorhead resident Greg Holland.

His neighborhood in-home child-care provider closed up shop earlier this year. That left Holland wondering what to do with his two young daughters when school began this fall.

Then he heard that the Fargo Youth Commission was going to offer child-care programs in Moorhead.

Holland investigated and liked what he learned. Now daughter Britta, 7, receives Youth Commission-provided child care at Robert Asp Elementary and daughter Claire, 5, is in child care at the Moorhead Youth Center, which the Youth Commission operates in the former Lincoln School.

"It's very convenient," Holland said of the arrangement. "It's really been good for us."

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Families such as the Hollands are why the Youth Commission and Moorhead School District say they launched their joint effort this fall to provide child-care programs for Moorhead kindergarten and elementary pupils.

"We view this as another way of serving students and their families," said Lynne Kovash, Moorhead assistant superintendent.

"And the response we've been getting is very good," she said.

State budget cuts limited the School District's ability to provide before- and after-school programs, a problem that's reduced by working with the Youth Commission, Kovash said.

The Youth Commission offers child-care programs before and after school at all three Moorhead elementary schools. Programs are offered from 6:45 a.m. until school begins and after school until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

All-day care is available when school isn't in session.

The Youth Commission also offers full- and half-day care for kindergarten pupils in the Moorhead Youth Center, 215 10th St. N., Moorhead.

The Youth Commission purchased the former Lincoln School building for $200,000 earlier this summer.

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The four Moorhead sites serve about 175 kids.

The Youth Commission had hoped for 110 to 150, so it's pleased with the response, said Rob Kueneman, executive director.

But the four sites have room for more kids, he said.

For more information on enrolling a child, go online at www.youthcommission.com .

The private, nonprofit Youth Commission has served the Fargo area since 1972. It began offering programs before and after school in 1986 and now serves about 700 kids in Fargo.

Flexible child-care programming is vital for many families, and the Youth Commission developed a successful system in Fargo to provide it, Kueneman said.

"We basically took the model that's worked for us in Fargo and brought it to Moorhead," he said.

The Fargo and Moorhead operations are staffed primarily by local college students planning to be preschool or elementary teachers.

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The Youth Commission typically has one on-duty staff member for every eight or 10 kids, compared with Minnesota's requirement for at least a 15 to 1 ratio, Kueneman said.

Kristen Moen, a Minnesota State University Moorhead student who wants a career in preschool or elementary education, spent 2½ years working with kids at Youth Commission sites in Fargo.

She came to Moorhead this fall to supervise the Youth Commission program at Robert Asp Elementary.

The hands-on training she receives from her Youth Commission work complements what she learns in the classroom, Moen said.

"What I'm doing here is definitely beneficial."

The Youth Commission's programs are a mix of social, physical and academic activities.

The goal is to reinforce what kids learn in school without trying to replace the schools, Kueneman said.

The children's safety is the Youth Commission's top priority, he said.

The Youth Commission spent about $60,000 on security upgrades, including 20 cameras, at the former Lincoln School building after taking possession of it Sept. 1.

"It was a safe building before we got it. But we wanted to make it even more secure," Kueneman said.

Moorhead kindergarten pupils who signed up with the Youth Commission attended Fargo sites while work on the Moorhead Youth Center was under way. Their first day in the Youth Center was Sept. 29.

Kueneman said Moorhead parents understood and accepted the delay in opening the Youth Center.

The Youth Commission has begun exploring additional uses for the Youth Center.

One possibility is allowing middle-school students to use the building when it otherwise would sit empty evenings and weekends.

"We're still pretty new to Moorhead, and we don't have all the answers yet," Kueneman said.

"But we do believe we're going to have a long, successful relationship with Moorhead."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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