New Marcellus drop-in program helping parents balance work and school

Local News

MARCELLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A new drop-in program just opened up a few weeks ago adjacent to the grounds of the middle school in Marcellus. It’s called Outside the Box Drop-in Program, offering guidance for remote learners.

Kathleen Gardiner, the operations director, had always dreamed of opening up her facility. During the pandemic, she saw a need that had to be filled right away. Within months, she started renting out the space used for religious education programs near the middle school. It’s a month-to-month rental for now, and the district is lending her desks for the kids.

“So I can’t promise you a spot, but my personal commitment is we won’t have kids being home alone,” Gardiner said.

Parents can bring their kids to the center, which is located on 53 North Street, on an as-needed basis, and the caregivers will make sure they get their schoolwork done. There are also high school mentors who work a few hours a week, offering guidance to the students. In between learning, the students take brain breaks and find time for play. The program fits 120 students, with some coming from different districts.

“I feel good that she’s with other kids, she’s getting the social interaction, she’s getting the learning,” said Holly Gennone, whose 5-year-old daughter is part of the program.

As a drop-in program, Gardiner didn’t have to get a childcare license. However, she did work as a childcare licenser for the state for decades and said she’s following CDC guidelines.

Gardiner has put up signage throughout the facility, spread everything out six feet apart, and even has an isolation room, which she re-named the “health lounge.” That’ll come in handy if a student starts showing COVID symptoms while in the building.

“I’m hoping that they felt safe. I’m hoping that they felt nurtured. I hope they feel that they succeeded. And for the parents, I’m hoping that they are a little less overwhelmed,” Gardiner said.

The program runs from 7 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it’s open from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Right now, the rate is $42 per day. There are slots available at this time. Call 315-436-0208 for more information.


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