No school, no problem: Programs offer options on what to do when 'snow days' pile up
Snowy, cold days can be difficult for almost everyone, but for parents -- working parents, in particular -- snow days off from school can be a big burden. When Fairfield schools cancelled classes Tuesday because of the latest winter storm, parents were scrambling to find ways to either care for, or entertain, school-age kids.
Fairfield schools' administrative office reported Tuesday that the district has closed for five "snow" days already this season and that the school year is now tentatively scheduled to stay open through June 18.
One Fairfield mother, Deidre Ronan, accompanied her two daughters Grace, 5 and Maeve, 9, to Fairfield University's hilly campus to sled Tuesday. "Hopefully this is the last one," she said about the growing number of snow days. "I don't mind the snow days, but we're going to be going into the summer. They took away our February break and God gave it back."
Two other mothers on the sledding hill said that trying to keep youngsters entertained on snow days was wearing thin.
"We've been cooped up," Laurie Markus said. "We got them out here to get some fresh air."
"It's getting old," her friend, Amy Gordon, agreed. "There's only so much you can do."
All three women said they hope that, after Tuesday's school closing, there would be no more snow days this year. But if there are, several programs are available in town to care for kids, even when school closures are announced suddenly.
At the Fairfield YMCA, the Y Fun Club for kids from ages 4 to 14 offers swimming, gym time, arts and crafts, games and sports. The program started last year as a pilot program, according to Sue McCall, the Y's healthy lifestyle director. Parents can register ahead and pay $99 for a three-day package and $33 per day for additional days. They can also bring their children on a drop-in basis for a $55 charge per day. The Y started the snow day program because parents with children in the Y child-care programs were looking for somewhere to bring their children on snow days and other times the schools are closed.
"They were looking for something to support their work day," McCall said, and the YMCA now offers the program from 8 to 6 p.m. to accommodate working parents. There are also half-day options available.
"We keep the children very active so they're not just sitting and watching TV," McCall said. "They're being stimulated mentally and physically."
Another organization that caters to the needs of working and non-working parents alike on school snow days and other days schools are closed is the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club. On Tuesday, there were 40 children in Wakeman's Stratfield clubhouse at the First Presbyterian Church building, 2475 Easton Turnpike, and sometimes there are as many as 100 who attend when schools are closed, according to Tim Cepetelli, unit manager of the Stratfield clubhouse.
The program, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on snow days, is open to kids in first through eighth grades. There is a game room, an art room, "and they do a lot of running around in our gym," he said. The program is free to members and membership at Wakeman is $70 per year. Children can also come for a $5 fee for one day per year as a guest. In addition to the Stratfield program, the main clubhouse is in Southport at 385 Center St. That clubhouse is not always open early, however, on snow days, according to Cepetelli.
Both the Y and Wakeman already have after-school programs with buses taking children directly from school to their facilities on a daily basis on school days, so adding snow day programs made sense, said the program administrators from both organizations.
This year, working parents have been especially grateful for the programs, Cepetelli added.
"Working parents are running out of days to take off," he said.
For information on the YMCA Y Fun Day program, visit www.cccymca.org/locations/fairfield or call the Y's welcome desk at 203 255-2834. For Wakeman Boys and Girls Club programs, visit www.wakemanclub.org or call 203-374-1108 for the Stratfield program or 203 259-4805 in Southport.