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Getting into the Zone

YMCA expands before- and after-school program

As part of its initiative to increase its presence in Morris, the YMCA is offering a before- and after-school program at White Oak Elementary and Saratoga schools.

The Kid Zone program is a recreational program to serve kids before and after school from grades kindergarten to fifth grade.

It has been offered by the YMCA for about 15 years in Troy, Plainfield, Minooka and some Joliet school districts said Laurie Halaska, executive director of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA, which has formed the Morris Community YMCA.

Last year was the first year White Oak had enough participants to offer the program there and this year they are offering it at Saratoga for the first time, Halaska noted.

Right after school the students are given a snack and work on homework. They then do physical activity, such as playing on the playground or outside games. If the weather is cold, they play in the gymnasium, playing board games or doing crafts.

“There is a lot of interaction between the counselors and the children,” said Halaska.

At White Oak, the childcare programs will be offered from 7 to 8:45 a.m. for $40 per week, after school from 3:25 to 6 p.m. for $60 per week, and both sessions are offered for $90 per week.

At Saratoga, where the before-school program is shorter and the after school program longer, the prices are slightly different. Before school, the program is offered from 7 to 7:50 a.m. for $25 per week and after school from 2:50 to 6 p.m. for $75 per week, or both for $90 per week.

Registration is being accepted now for both schools. Each camp needs about eight to 10 kids to be launched, said Halaska. Additional children can be signed up during the year.

“I think this is going to be a good option for our parents,” said Saratoga Principal Joe Zweeres. “The Y offers kid-friendly programs with learning opportunities.”

Both the schools are having schedule changes due to combining their bus systems. Saratoga is starting school 15 minutes earlier, and White Oak about a half an hour later.

With the changes, White Oak Principal Chris Maier said offering the programs will be very helpful for parents who work and have to accommodate the time changes.

The increase in the childcare programs, as well as this summer’s camps, is to push the YMCA presence here in Morris in the hopes of eventually opening a facility locally.

“When we built the Plainfield facility seven years ago, we did the Kids Zone program and the basketball program first. The basketball program went great in Morris,” said Halaska. “The summer camps and the Kids Zone will build the membership we need to build that facility.”

The Morris YMCA is currently looking for a building or store front to have physical space in the area as it raises funds and plans to build a future facility. It has 15 acres at U.S. 6 and Saratoga Road. Most of the property was donated by Mark Jorstad and Ron Evenson, and the rest purchased.

YMCA officials have said previously the plan for a Morris facility will take about five years. It is expected to be a smaller scale of Plainfield’s C.W. Avery Family YMCA. The Plainfield facility is about 75,000-square-feet. For Morris, they are looking at a 40,000-square-foot building. The building is expected to cost about $10 million.

For more information or to register for the before- and after-school programs visit or call (815) 744-3939.

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