Theme weeks, water play, tech time … there is plenty happening this summer at ECS, Escalon Children’s Services.
Headquartered on the Dent Elementary School campus, ECS is an affiliate of The Learning Tree Preschool in Escalon, and features both before and after school care during the school year along with the structured summer program for local youngsters.
After adapting to the variety of COVID-19 restrictions, kids and staff alike have been able to enjoy unmasking outdoors this summer, though they still wear them inside and frequent cleaning and sanitizing is part of the regular routine.
It’s also a place kids can get homework help during the school year and spend their summer involved in lots of fun projects, noted longtime ECS director Sandy Berbena.
“The two most important things we teach are respect and manners,” Berbena said of striving to not only provide care for kids but instill some time-honored values in them as well. “We’re very fortunate in that we are close with our children and their families, we really are the ECS family, the kids have been a big support to each other and they have been supportive of the teachers.
Students from six-year-old to those entering fifth grade can attend the summer program.
A student at Dent, getting ready to go into third grade, seven-year-old Allison Langley considers herself a regular at ECS, having attended since first grade.
“I like all the weeks, the different weeks,” she said of the various themes. “And I like art and math.”
Her favorite theme is ‘Western Week’ as she has cows at her grandmother’s house and she also enjoys being a tour guide, pointing out the various fun activities summer program attendees like, from the horseshoes to basketball hoop and the very popular sandbox.
Along with Berbena, the staff includes Nick Haskins, Deanna Miles, Vincent Rocha and Cathy Chapman. They work for the ECS program year-round.
“We’re so lucky to have Val (Learning Tree owner Val Vesia-Glor) as our leader,” Berbena added, noting that they have been able to maintain full staff and keep their programs going through the pandemic.
For Miles, teaching and working with kids is something she still enjoys doing.
“I’ve been with Learning Tree and here for about 18 years,” she explained, adding that “the children” are the best part, seeing them learn and grow, adapting to the changes that COVID brought.
“We just tried to make the best of it,” she noted.
Berbena said the full day summer program runs from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; the school year program is open 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. for before school care, 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. for after school care.
“When it all first began,” Berbena explained of the pandemic, “we had to acclimate and adjust. The kids’ whole world flipped upside down.”
But she has found them to be resilient and said though it was hard during the distance learning to make it work for everyone, they did navigate through it.
“During all of that, we learned together,” Berbena said.
No one is unhappy that some of the pandemic restrictions are easing and recently enjoyed a Disney-themed week, one of the summer favorites. They also make sure to have a water play day every week and during the summer program, kids bring their own lunch and a snack, with a second snack provided through the ECS program.
Eight-year-old Brennan Herrera, going into third grade, said his favorite theme week was earlier this month, Patriotic Week, and he enjoys playing in the sand box the best.
Berbena, a veteran of 25 years with The Learning Tree and ECS, said they continue to be grateful for the support of the families, as they are completely full for the fall before/after school program.
“We are holding steady,” she said.