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posted: 6/18/2012 3:03 PM

New after-school program coming to District 70

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By Robin Kollman
Libertyville Elementary District 70

A national early-childhood and school-age education and care provider will be in place in the fall for Libertyville School District 70, offering before- and after-school services at all four elementary schools.

During a recent special school board meeting, board members unanimously approved hiring Champions Extended Learning, a division of Knowledge Learning Corp., to set up potential before- and after-school sites at District 70 elementary schools and offer half-day kindergarten sections that meet the needs for District 70 children.

"They see themselves as educators, beyond caretakers," board member Laura Beltchenko said when discussing hiring Champions. "It's a stellar program. We really can't compare the two. What I'm hearing is that Luco (Education Partners) is leasing space to care for children (at Butterfield, Copeland Manor and Rockland schools as the Afterschool Club) and what Champions is offering is so much more."

Beltchenko, a curriculum director for unit school district, noted that Champions follows a curriculum for its program.

"They offer so much more, it's amazing."

Before District 70 could hire Champions, they had to terminate a lease agreement with Luco Education Partners, which runs the Afterschool Club. The Afterschool Club has had a long working relationship with District 70, but has been working under a lease agreement for space with the school district. District 70 will move into a contractual relationship with Champions for actual service.

District 70 Board of Education Member Julie Damenti spent part of Tuesday afternoon checking out the Champions program set up in Woodland School District 50.

She told fellow board members she was "very impressed" with the program, adding, "if I was a parent with a child there I would feel very good that my child was safe and getting his homework done." She said Champions staff members were helping students with homework. "I think Champions would be wonderful to add to our families."

The program is expected to cost a bit more as Deb Merdinger, regional manager for Champions, said the company spends between $10,000 and $15,000 on equipment for start up. Parents can expect to pay about $1 more a day for all day care and $2 more a day for after-school care. Scholarships also are available. Sites will be offered at each school, although enrollment figures will determine final locations.

Champions currently runs school programs in Woodland, Kildeer Countryside Community Consolidated School District 96, and Beach Park Community Consolidated School District 3.

Staff runs at about one for every 20 students and the company will consider hiring current staff providing after-school care. Extensive background checks are done on all employees. The service also may be expanded in the future, as Champions provides day care for school staff and community children as young as 6-weeks-old for other school districts.

Pending its approval, Champions will set up in the district this summer and offer an Open House for families before the start of the new school year.

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