Augusta Launches Child Care Program for Students Taking Adult Education Courses – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel | Team Cansler

Nova Howard, 5 months old, explores the room where she is being cared for Tuesday while her mother Rhonda Howard and Howard’s fiancee Raymond Oakes attend adult education classes at the Buker Community Center in Augusta. Augusta’s adult education program offers free child care on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those who need it to attend classes. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Rhonda Howard rocked her 5-month-old daughter Nova to sleep with a bottle, hoping the child would take a nap before their classes began Tuesday afternoon.

Howard is two credits away from earning her high school diploma through Augusta Adult and Community Education, and once she completes that program, she plans to take courses to become a certified nursing assistant. She travels from Waterville to the Buker Community Center with her partner Raymond Oakes, who is also attending an adult education course there to become a mechanic.

Without someone to watch Nova, Howard said continuing her studies — something she said she’s inspired to do for her daughter — would be “very difficult.”

She’s one of two students in the city’s adult education program using a new program that provides free childcare on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those who need it to attend classes.

“It’s so helpful,” Howard said. “It makes it so that people who want to go can go.”

Kayla Sikora, Augusta’s director of adult and community education, launched the so-called “child surveillance program” in partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department just two weeks ago after another student brought her two-year-old son to her exam.

Being a mom, I was like, ‘I’m going to hang out with her while you take the test,'” Sikora said, adding that she was starting to think of ways she could make the situation work.

She then turned to Augusta Parks and Recreation, which already offers a daily before and after school childcare program for elementary school children at the Buker Community Center. Principal Bruce Chase and Beth Sproul-LeBrun, the city’s director of child services, agreed to help.

About 115 children use the city’s aftercare program every day, according to Sproul-LeBrun.

Sproul-LeBrun said child care in the area is hard to come by and expensive for some families.

Eunice Mabiala attends an adult education class Tuesday while her son Lusiel, 2, is cared for at the Buker Community Center in Augusta. Augusta’s adult education program offers free child care on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those who need it to attend classes. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The new adult education student program is open to up to four students and runs Tuesdays from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m

According to a memorandum of understanding signed Oct. 25 between the city’s adult education program and the Department of Parks and Recreation, officials hope the offering will “increase and strengthen” adult education rates in Augusta.

Augusta Adult and Community Education, which does not require people to live in Augusta to enroll, serves between 50 and 100 students at any given time, Sikora said.

The program costs $60 each week to run and is funded from the Adult Education Budget. The price could increase if more than four students can use the service at the same time.

“If we can’t afford it in the future, we will find a way to make it work, even if it’s only for two-hour blocks on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Sikora said. “It is so important.”

Eunice Mabiala brings her son Lusiel to the program so she can learn English. Two-year-old Lusiel sits with the childcare workers and plays during the two hours his mother has in class.

Adult Education Director Kayla Sikora plays with Lusiel Mabiala, 2, at the Buker Community Center in Augusta on Tuesday while his mother Eunice attends an adult education class. Augusta’s adult education program offers free child care on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those who need it to attend classes. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“It feels good not to have any problems,” Mabiala said of the opportunity to drop her son off just a few classrooms away.

As the new director of the adult education program, Sikora said she feels “so passionate” about making sure people have access to education that if the program couldn’t afford to pay for the child care option, she would figure it out of her own pocket.

Sikora, who previously worked for Waldoboro-Area Regional School Unit 40, pointed out that the students involved in the adult education program contribute to the economy by pursuing their skills.

“I’m very committed to ensuring that students have access to education,” said Sikora. “It directly affects the economy and we want them to be members of society and for them to get to the next level when it comes to education, or go to college, we want to help them because we believe in education .”


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