Community Comes Together to Provide Vital Program

It certainly takes a village.  In this case, it took the park district, Valley View School District, the Village of Bolingbrook, and a few churches.  That’s what it took to provide the various versions of the REACH Extended Care program in the past year.  Normally, park district staff provides support before and after school at six participating elementary schools. But when schools went to e-learning, families with working parents needed a place to send their kids. 

The conversations of providing e-learning support began all the way back in June of last year when the idea of kids going back to school first started. Park district staff prepared for multiple scenarios not knowing what the State of Illinois would decide.  One of those scenarios included All-Day e-learning support.  Restrictions limited the amount of people in facilities, so staff had to find facilities beyond what the park district had to host the program.

“We were prepared to have 150 kids across four locations,” said Baiardo. “Living Water Church, New Life Church, and the Village of Bolingbrook stepped up without hesitation to provide support. They didn’t charge us any fees other than covering the costs of the added utilities, which we were very grateful for.”  

The REACH All-Day Care program has been running since Labor Day with a lot of help from Valley View School District. They have provided support including hot spots for stronger internet connection and helped promote the program through their communication channels.  The All-Day Care program continues at the Annerino Community Center as schools have gone back to in-person learning in January.      

Additionally, the REACH Before/After School Care program started at the six elementary schools that include:

  • BJ Ward
  • Independence
  • Jonas Salk
  • Pioneer
  • Tibbott
  • Wood View

When the decision was made to go to in-person learning, staff reached out to the school district who had already began to get feedback from parents asking about the REACH program.  Park district staff used their experience of planning and adapting to get ready. Kai Walhgren, superintendent of recreation knew the challenges that were ahead, but knew that the goal was to provide a service to the community. 

“We basically had six months of work to do in two weeks,” said Wahlgren.  We’ve certainly grown through this pandemic and we’ve been fortunate to have built such a strong relationship with the school district throughout the years and it helped get this program up and running again.”   

Since 2004, the REACH Extended Care program has been a growing need in the community. It first began when BJ Ward became an elementary school.  For more information about the program and how to register, please visit www.bolingbrookparks.org/REACH.