Boys play Wednesday at the Winthrop Grade School gymnasium. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

WINTHROP — Lonney Steeves and his staff at the Winthrop YMCA roll out white tables at Winthrop Grade School at 7:30 a.m. every Wednesday and place a bottle of hand sanitizer on top as they prepare for children to walk through the door.

The routine would usually be performed at 2:30 p.m. every day, after the school day, but because of the coronavirus, the YMCA has added a full-day Kid Zone to assist parents needing extra child care.

“Our YMCA has always prided itself on its ways to meet the needs of the community,” Steeves said. “And the need arose.”

With the state receiving $164 million in coronavirus relief funding, school districts in the area have the ability to establish child care programs such as those organized by Steeves, and some have even looked to him to help established programs like the Y’s Kid Zone.

The Winthrop Public Schools have divided students into three cohorts, with students in cohort A or B attending in-person learning twice a week and cohort C students in fully remote learning.

Districtwide, Wednesdays serve as an at-home, remote day.


When Steeves heard parents across the district would need a place to bring their children on Wednesdays, he came up with a plan to open the Y that day.

For the day, the cost is $45 per student. The fee does not include lunch, which Steeves said has not been an issue. Students bring their own lunches.

So far, 16 children on average have signed up. Steeves said he was surprised more families have not utilized the service, but he expected that will happen soon.

“Each kid has work that they were assigned (by teachers) for the day away,” he said. “If they don’t have anything, they read. They play in the gym, play board games and do crafts.”

Lonney Steeves hopes to expand the Winthrop YMCA’s Kids Club After School Program, which hosts children on days when school is out. Steeves is shown Wednesday at the Winthrop Y. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

There is room for about 20 students at the Winthrop Grade School gymnasium, where the Y sets up. Social distancing is required.

Steeves said the program is set up to have crafts individually packaged and to encourage students to spend much of their time outdoors. About four staff members are on hand to supervise students and help them do schoolwork.


At Monmouth Memorial School in Regional School Unit 2, Donna Seppy partnered with Steeves to implement a five-day, all-day program, funded by coronavirus relief funding  until Dec. 31, when the funding is scheduled to end.

Although Steeves’ Winthrop program is not funded by the coronavirus relief money, the YMCA was still looked at as a model. The partnership was needed in order to receive the funds, Seppy said.

“This grant is the only reason why we could have a program like this,” Seppy said. “The grant requested that the superintendent couldn’t apply, but that we could have a community partner. This is a trio partnership, with the RSU, town of Monmouth and with the Y, because they have an established program.”

Now that Monmouth Memorial School has a new building, the five-day program is able to take place there. Students will be fed through the free-meals program, providing them breakfast and lunch.

The building has three rooms that will be used for the program. The rooms allow students to to take their classes on remote-learning days and do homework, while students in the other rooms can focus on other activities.

“Students can do schoolwork during the day, and a group can work in the room on homework,” Seppy said. “It’s very individualized.”


Although the Monmouth Memorial child care is free, the after-school program that starts at 2:30 p.m. is $15.

Seppy said 21 children have signed up for the after-school program, but it can accept 40 and still comply with social-distancing guidelines.

Officials in Gardiner-based Maine School Administrative District 11 said they are also looking to implement a similar program, utilizing coronavirus relief funding. Priority would be given to students who are children of essential workers, qualify for free or reduced lunch or children of staff members within the district.

Ingrid Stanchfield, chief executive officer at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley, said her grant request for federal relief funds is awaiting state approval before the program can begin.

The Kennebec Valley YMCA in Augusta is also hosting a Kid Zone, similar to the Steeves’ program in Winthrop.

The Augusta program is five days a week and runs all day. It costs $80 a day, but the Kennebec Valley Y has scholarships for students who need financial assistance, according to Paul Sveum, the youth program director.

The Augusta program has teamed up with organizations throughout the city, including The Study Hall, to help with homework, and the Snow Pond Center for the Arts, which is bringing “art as academic support” for the children.

“The Kid Zone is more than just child care,” Sveum said. “It’s an opportunity to enrich our children’s experiences and give them a chance to socialize, interact and play with their peers, which after this past year is something that all kids need.”

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