Local church provides safe space as schools move to four day week

Date Posted: 8/11/2022

By: Maleri McHam - En Español
With several local school districts transitioning into a four day school week this year, FUMC DeKalb has stepped up to fill a need, providing students with a safe place to go on Fridays. Beginning this school year, students of DeKalb, Hubbard and Malta ISD’s will only be attending school Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Rev. Amanda Stratton, pastor at FUMC DeKalb said one major concern with this was the children “not having a safe place on Fridays if their parents worked a traditional eight to five, Monday through Friday.” Stratton said the superintendents took local pastors to lunch to speak about how this change in the school week could impact the community and what the needs would be.
Stratton said that the program We Love All God’s Children came to mind when she was thinking of ways to serve these children who may need somewhere to go on Fridays. This program is based on the Texas Annual Conference serving under-resourced children in the community with the creation of children’s centers.
She said that she realized “the United Methodist Church is equipped to step up, stand in the gap and fulfill a need in our community, it's really exciting to both be able to fill a need and be able to do children's ministry.”
Stratton said her church sent out a survey to determine how many families in the community would be seeking childcare on Fridays with this change. Around 17 families, or 20 children, were identified as needing somewhere for their kids to go. The majority of children identified were those in second and third grade.
Knowing FUMC DeKalb could fill this need for childcare, Stratton began discussions with each ISD about offering childcare services on Fridays. From here Friday School was born, a program that will last from 8 a.m. to noon every Friday.
When Friday School ends at noon, the school will still be holding their federally funded after school program that will last from noon to around 3 p.m. on Fridays, Stratton said.
Friday School will be held at DeKalb Elementary School. This space was chosen because it is the “safest and most neutral” spot and parents are already familiar with pick-up and drop-off there, she said.
While the exact plans for Friday School will not be set in place until a director is hired, the idea is for it to be similar to a one day vacation bible school with a new theme and scripture each Friday, Stratton said. There will be songs, science experiments, crafts, supervised play, homework assistance, and more.
Since the program is being held on school grounds, the school will still be providing a lunch for the kids in attendance of Friday School. “This will be unique and allow us the opportunity to provide childcare with Christian influence in a safe and grace filled space,” Stratton said. She added that while held by a UMC, Friday School will have no intentions of making children or families feel the need to follow this denomination.
“One of the main desires was for it to be very low pressure for kids to come and explore and learn more about the Christian faith without the pressure to align with any one church or denomination and for families to be able to connect in a nice neutral environment while still fulfilling the need,” she said.
FUMC DeKalb will have to charge for Friday School in order to pay for staffing and supplies. The church is making it as low cost as possible and as more kids sign up the cost could decrease, Stratton said.
“This is such a wonderful community that works so well together, and I love the partnership that the schools and the churches all have so that we really can invest and support our families here,” Stratton said.
Those interested in learning more about Friday School or registering can visit DeKalb FUMC’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dekalbmethodist/ or the church website at https://www.dekalbmethodist.org.