When the pandemic hit and brought forth stay-at-home orders, Scarborough Community Services’ programming took a major hit, with most in-person programs ending abruptly. This included two of our largest programs, the before-school and after-school care programs and summer day camp programs. Everyone knew that Scarborough could not go another year without these programs that are essential to all the working families in town.
When looking ahead to school year 2020-21 and learning that school would be operating under a hybrid model, staff had to rethink how childcare programs would function. In following the same hybrid model, the best option was to provide Hybrid Care, welcoming students Grades K-6 into a safe space to complete their schoolwork but also socialize with same-aged peers and participate in daily physical activities. The groups were split into two separate groups – a Monday/Tuesday cohort and a Thursday/Friday cohort – with Wednesdays as an add-on option for both cohorts. Groups were further split up into school-specific pods. These areas ensured that kids going to the same school stayed together for all learning, mealtimes, and play times.
The biggest hurdle in this program reshaping process was that Scarborough Community Services never had its own dedicated programming space. This forced staff to think creatively and swiftly in order to secure space before the next school year began. In a span of four weeks, the Town Council approved the $300,000 lease expense outside of the budget cycle, the Director negotiated the lease terms and secured the agreement, then staff moved into the space and worked within the existing building footprint to build out distinct spaces for students as well as office space for staff. The vast majority of the furniture and supplies needed to get the building up and running (90%) were recycled from the School Department’s storage facility. Pods were created with retractable wall dividers to make the space work for students while also allowing staff to adjust spacing for future programming needs. Aside from the hiring of a part-time custodian, no additional hires were required to run the program and new building space. Community Services also received the backing of up to $90,000 from a local business to help offset operational expenses for the year. This program went on to serve 103 students during the 2020-21 school year.
The facility has now given staff the availability to introduce more programming than ever before. During the 2020-year, staff organized a twice-monthly drive-through location for senior pick-up meals. This transitioned back to in-person meals once a week in the Fall of 2021. Once the Hybrid Care program wrapped up, the building became the home base for Grades 6-7 summer camp and a twice-weekly drop-in center for senior citizens in the Summer of 2021. And now that school is back to a normal schedule this year, the building has been scheduled steadily with a new preschool program, daily senior offerings, youth enrichment programs (afterschool and weekend), programs aimed for children under 5 and homeschool students, adult fitness classes, expanding our services to groups we have never reached before. Now that programmers have a space they can consistently program in, the future holds no bounds!