For the Academy of Arts & Knowledge, a Fort Collins public elementary school, it is time to do more to support the families in our community struggling with the lack of affordable childcare.
For school principal, Nichole Schlagel, the pandemic threw into sharp relief the current childcare crisis and equity issues facing our community. “We see so many of our students left at home alone or in unsafe conditions. We see parents lose their jobs because they don’t have a place for the children to go when they are at work. We see kids go hungry when they don’t have access to free school meals.”
With the support of the board of directors, Ms. Schlagel decided it was time to do something more for the struggling families in our community. Accordingly, beginning August 11, AAK will open the AAK Community Learning Center, which will offer free care for students year-round.
The school already offers free before and after school care for families, but with nearly half of their students living at or below the poverty line and one-third of their students living in single-parent households, Ms. Schlagel believes that “before and after school care isn’t enough for our families, they need affordable care on days when our school is not in session too.”
Students will be able to arrive at the school as early as 7:00 am and stay until 5:30 pm, Monday-Friday, including all school breaks and summer. The added hours for the Community Learning Center more than doubles the number of hours that children can be at the school every year in a safe and supportive environment. All at no cost to the families.
The school was recently awarded a substantial grant that will fund the program for the next three years.
Students who attend the Community Learning Center will receive academic support and engaging programming that coordinates with the curriculum delivered during the traditional school day. “Our idea is to make it feel more like a fun summer camp than just more school,” Ms. Schlagel continues, “Our kids deserve to have a safe place to have fun and be engaged in their community. They need space to just be kids.”
While the Community Learning Center is currently only open to students enrolled in the school, the school administration has plans to expand in the coming years to open it up to more children in the community. “Our dream is to have this amazing community center that feels like home to our families. Our community deserves that. Our kids deserve that.”
The school is currently enrolling in grades kindergarten through 5th grade. “This is going to be an amazing year at AAK.” Ms. Schlagel says, “We are so excited to be able to offer this opportunity to our families and community.”