Busy working parents who can’t always pick up their children after school will soon be able to take advantage of a new After School Day Care Program.

The Cree School Board (CSB) held a ceremonial signing in Mistissini January 19 to launch the service with the Cree Regional Authority (CRA) and the Quebec Ministry of Education.

The program, which is available to every school board in Quebec, was set up to ensure the safety of the children, to make sure they aren’t home alone and to take a little stress from their parents’ shoulders.

Daycare educators will come into the school in the morning, during lunch and after school to monitor the students in Grades 1 to 6 who are signed up for the program.

“The After School Day Care Program was an item that was on my platform when I ran for the chairmanship of the Cree School Board,” said William Mianscum, who was elected CSB Chairman in August 2003.

Mianscum says the reason that teachers are not asked to watch kids after school is for budgetary reasons. In order to avoid higher wages, dues and payroll expenses for educators classified as teachers, a little financial sleight of hand is needed. Thus the Education Ministry will transfer funds to the CSB, which in turn will hand it over to the CRA in order to dole the money out under their Child Care and Family Services Program, thus avoiding costly teaching certification for day care workers.

The program will cost $1.6 million annually. The cost to each parent will be $7 a day.

Since the project is in the early stages, Mianscum could only guess how many students would sign up for the program. He figured 200 to 230 children would be enrolled. He also could not say when each community would implement the program.

“It’s a program that will enhance the success of these children as they go onto secondary classes,” he said. “It’ll give them the edge to be successful in their studies. The educators are not just going to be looking after them, they’re going to be working on their assignments with them and continue with lessons the students have received from their teachers. They’re also there to help them if they fall behind.”

Proposed activities include floor hockey, basketball, board games and outdoor activities.