Originally created 10/24/06

Fitting in fall break



Stephanie Loyal volunteered to watch her working neighbor's children during Columbia County schools' fall break.

On Friday, she took the children - her 4-year-old son and her friend's three children, who range in age from age 4 to 14 - to Patriots Park. They all caught a showing of the animated film Open Season at the Evans 14 Cinemas on Monday. Today, she plans to take them bowling.

On Thursday, school begins anew.

"She's in a situation where she's going to school and working, and her husband is deployed," Ms. Loyal said of her friend.

"A lot of day cares won't just take kids for a few days," continued Ms. Loyal, a Grovetown homemaker. "Her only other options would have been to miss school and work."

The school system's fall break placed a burden on many working parents, Ms. Loyal said.

In the next two school years, however, the system's fall break will be shortened to two days, barring a change by the school board.

"I'm glad it's being shortened, because that will help parents," Ms. Loyal said. "But they need to quit messing with it. Just figure it out and leave it alone."

Without a friend to turn to for baby-sitting duty, some parents relied on day care centers. Other parents took the fall break as a chance to vacation with their children, day care managers said.

Jennifer Jones, the manager of A Child's World, in Evans , added workers with the expectation of increased enrollment during the fall break.

"We're overstaffed," she said. "I'm really surprised. I think a lot of parents are going on vacation with their kids while they're out of school."

Among those taking time away from work to spend with their children are employees of Blue Ridge Preschool and Daycare in Evans.

"We've got teachers taking time off to go to Pigeon Forge (Tennessee)," Assistant Manager Dale Howell said.

Ms. Howell and Ms. Jones said they have about 25 and 30 school-age children, respectively, at their day cares during fall break. Typically, they each cater to about 70 school-age pupils in their after-school programs.

The day care centers charge about $50 a week per child for their after-school programs. During fall break, they're charging $12 to $17 more a day.

The additional fee includes more age-appropriate activities for older pupils, Ms. Jones said.

"Today, they're on a field trip to Putt-Putt," Ms. Jones said. "They also have access to computers, video games, or they can go outside and play."

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.