The Missoula Family YMCA is planning to decrease its out of school program costs by as much as 50 percent, while also adding more program sites for school children.

CEO Heather Foster said the expanded care is being made possible by a federal grant administered by the State of Montana.

“You know, we're really excited,” said Foster. “We were awarded a grant through the state. It's actually federal money through the CARES Act, and it is to support school age programming. So the Y has been able to do a couple of things. One is to immediately reduce our costs for our school aid programs that include after school care, and also our full day enrichment care, which is really in support of the Missoula County Public Schools hybrid model.”

Foster said the ‘Y’ will be offering even more services.

“We are also looking at expanding our services,” she said. “We're potentially going to be opening a site at Mountain Jumbo School. The school board just voted last week to allow us to lease that space and we'll look to put after school programming as well as some hybrid support programming out there, in addition to working with the Missoula County Public Schools to do hopefully an open feeding site where we'll have the ability to have kiddos just kind of drop in throughout the day.”

Foster said paying for the ‘Y’s services will become easier as well.

“Outside of reducing the general cost of the program we've also created a barrier free financial assistance application and created a pretty wide open grid that allows families to qualify for up to 80% financial assistance for programming depending on their family income.”

One very encouraging statistic that Foster added at the close of the interview, was that the Missoula Family YMCA has not registered a single positive COVID case in its child care program.

“One reason is that we've been working really closely with the health department, and they've been an excellent resource for us,” she said. “They helped us create all of our protocols and our procedures early on when this happened when we were back in emergency childcare. We've been able to keep our staffing to child ratio with really small groups and pods keeping our kids together. You know, we're trying to be intentional about keeping schools together as much as we can and not intermixing staff. People have been wearing masks and we spend a lot of time outside, and I think that also contributes to the safety.”

The Y’s current out-of-school programs include before-school care (Hellgate), after-school care (Chief Charlo, Hellgate, Paxson and Russell) and full-day enrichment (all students in grades K-6). Additional after-school programs serving Franklin and Lewis & Clark will begin in mid-October.

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