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South Washington County Schools' Kids Club offers variety for children

From left, Avrie Morris, Ella Rostad and Logan Kelm watch as Sara Korpi, Cottage Grove Elementary School Kids Club site supervisor, puts sprinkles on the mini cupcakes the kids made.

Maggie McGowan was doing her homework after school last Thursday at Cottage Grove Elementary School Kids Club, a before- and after-school program in all School District 833 elementary schools and Valley Crossing School.

McGowan, a second-grader, said there's no single thing she likes best about Kids Club. "I like all of it," she said. "The people are nice here."

Her friend, Helena Yiangou, was sitting with McGowan reading a book. She enjoys the time she spends in the school's computer lab. She also likes doing art projects.

McGowan and Yiangou are two of the 1,750 kids who attend Kids Club five days at their home schools.

Parents can drop off their children as early as 6:30 a.m. and pick them up as late as 6 p.m. or arrange for others to pick them up. For safety reasons, parents let the site know if someone else is picking up their child. Those who are not parents will be asked to present identifications.

Some parents use the service occasionally or one or two days a week. The sites are flexible and children can attend other after school activities within the school and still be anchored at Kids Club.

About 25 percent of the children have reduced tuition because they are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. Discounts are given to families if there is more than one child in the program.

Sites are also open all day on the 15 days during the year when school is closed for teacher days or holidays and 52 days during the summer months but not at all sites. Non-school days have themes such as Mad Science.

Fees are reasonable because there's no overhead, according to Lynn Deml, youth programs coordinator in Community Education, which runs the program.

The goal of the program is not to make a profit. Any funds not going to the sites go to site improvements such as for iPads kids can use for fun or learning and laptop computers for site supervisors. New storage units were recently installed at several sites.

Ongoing staff training is slated for 2 percent of site worker hours. Recently, additional security training was given because of the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

Sara Korpi, site supervisor at Cottage Grove, worked at a commercial day care center before coming to Kids Club. She likes the split shift before and after school, the kids and doing something different each day. "I'm not a cubical person," she said.

"We are constantly looking for new ways to help kids," Deml said, adding that there are weekly lesson plans that include science, art and crafts. Sessions also begin with a snack.

Last week, after the kids did homework or went outdoors to play in the snow, Korpi then gathered the kids. They were given the choice of going to the computer lab, playing with Legos to assemble miniature doll houses, making a craft project or learning to make mini cupcakes. Kids could also spend time reading alone.

"It's not a free for all," Deml said.

Recently, staff members, approximately one for every 10 children, were given leadership training by the district's human resources department.

There are also parent advisory committees.

The goal is to do things that help working parents, Deml said, such as providing a light supper on Halloween so parents could have more time to get their children into costumes.

All Kids Club information, including fees, is on line at

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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