||January 23, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 2 • Oakland, CA|
Loretta Airoldi photo
St. Patrick’s opens infant care
The newest member of the St. Patrick School community
was dressed in a white shirt and white pants with tiny pink and black
dancers printed on them. She was in no danger, however, of being out of
The Rev. Larry Young, pastor, agreed to the move that is both family-friendly and a strong step toward ensuring the future of the school.
“As Father said at Mass,” Stevens said, “Mom can have the baby, bring it to St. Pat’s and stay through eighth-grade graduation.”
Father Young said he was seeing young families struggling in this economy; an infant care center in a place they already knew could relieve some stress for families in which both parents must work outside the home.
He also had the school’s future in mind. The school has had a preschool onsite for the last decade; the addition of the child care center means a family could bring its child to the school for the first 14 years of life.
“It all makes sense,” he said.
From idea to enrollment involved steps including the school board, as well as county and state regulators.
“We had the space,” Stevens said. The chapel of the convent that was once the home to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been converted to the infant care center. Art teacher Loretta Airoldi, first-grade teacher Kari Martz and second-grade teacher Kellianne Smith put their artistic talents to work, creating lovely murals of flowers and animals. Four cribs are lined up, and a rocking chair is at the ready for naptime. Skylights illuminate the playroom, helping to add to, in Stevens’ words, “the loving, warm atmosphere.”
Although St. Patrick’s plans to care for 12 babies, the license provides the school with room to grow. Three babies are scheduled to join in February.
The center is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, the same as the extended day hours of the school. State regulations call for one caregiver for every four babies. Maria Escalada, parishioner who has experience as a provider of infant care, is the center’s first. The infant care center will care for babies from 6 weeks to 2 years, 9 months. At that age, they will move to the preschool.
The fee, $795 a month for infant care, compares favorably with the average in Contra Costa County. Agencies that track the cost of child care report that infant care in the county average $1,100 a month.
The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary left the school to return to their Arizona motherhouse in 2001, and the convent was vacated. The next year, part of it became a preschool, which enrolls 45 children full-time.
The preschool has provided not just an excellent feeder school for the kindergarten, but it makes things easier at kindergarten testing time. Father Young noted that the children are already familiar with the school, and are not distressed to visit a big, unknown place. “It’s simply, ‘This is my school,’” he said.
That comfortable transition continues to the kindergarten curriculum. The children know the “big school” from activities such as attendance at school Masses and other activities with their eighth-grade “buddies.”
Another family-friendly component is that faculty members can bring their own infants to the infant care center. “Our faculty is very prolific,” said the pastor.
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