By Mary Doyle
Fort Meade prepares for first day of school
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md; Fort Meade leadership held an education focused town hall to assist families, especially those newly arriving, to prepare for a new school year.
Accreditation of Child Development Center four, where to register for youth sports, a free tutoring program for the entire family and the status of masks and social distancing at Anne Arundel County Public Schools were just a few of the topics covered at the town hall, Thursday, Aug 12.
“I know everyone is looking forward to a new school year, in person, in school, all schools, all grades,” said Sarah Bonise, Fort Meade school liaison officer. “We’re very excited about that.”
Fort Meade is the largest employer in the state of Maryland and has seven Anne Arundel County Public Schools, five child development centers, a School Age Services Center and a Teen Center. Bonise recommended the AACPS website (www.aacps.org ) as a good place for information. She also reminded families that the school system recommends families register with the AACPS PowerSchool Parent/Student Portal to stay up to date on assignments and grades.
“This gives you capability to track the progress of your child online. It’s like, they know you’re watching,” said Bonise. “
Bonise said many parents are concerned about the level of learning over the last school year and fear their children may not be ready. She said the school system has tutoring services, but military-connected families have access to a free program offered through DOD.
“Tutor.com is for all military and DOD civilians and their family members.” said Bonise. “It has live expert tutors, 24/7 anywhere for military connected students on core subjects from college to kindergarten. This is a resource that we need to take advantage of.”
The beginning of the school year is a busy time, but the demand for child care is a year-round requirement.
“Our rush hour for school age services, for after school programs, is happening right now,” said Francisco Jamison, director of Child, Youth and School Services. “In addition to enrolling the new children for CDC and Youth Sports, we are in the process of (School Age Center) SAC school year enrollment and re-enrollments for all CYS programs.”
Jamison, who was a member of the teen center during his younger years, says the Fort Meade Teen Center will open Sept. 8. He reminded parents to re-register returning, or newly arrived teenagers to ensure they are eligible to participate in the many teen center programs.
“This teen center is great,” said Jamison. “It offers all the programs that you would expect from a DOD teen center.”
DOD has announced fees at school age services are going up in a five-year effort which will also increase income categories from nine to 13. Jamison said parents can expect to see the increased fees in their mid-September bill.
Many questions had to do with the high demand for child care on the installation and the long waiting list, sometimes reaching as high as 500 children long. Child care fees are subsidized at CDCs on Fort Meade, resulting in high quality child care at much lower rates than can be found off post.
“The DOD is really trying to attack child care capacity where the capacity has the most challenges,” said Col. Christopher Nyland, Fort Meade garrison commander.
Jamison and Nyland congratulated the staff at CDC 4 on their recent accreditation from the National Association for Education of Youth and Children. NAEYA accreditation involves an extensive self-study and quality-improvement process, followed by an on-site visit by NAEYC Assessors to verify the program met each of the ten program standards, and hundreds of corresponding individual criteria.
“I congratulate the staff,” said Jamison. “I can’t tell you how daunting a task that is for any program, but Center Four did that in the middle of a pandemic.”
“The entire command team is proud of that effort,” said Nyland. “Well done.”
Following their introductions, Nyland and staff spent the remainder of their time addressing questions from viewers that had been left in the Facebook chat.
“By this time in the COVID pandemic, the Fort Meade community is accustomed to the town hall format for gaining information,” said Chad Jones, Fort Meade Public Affairs Officer. “We had a lot of information to share and a lot of questions to answer. Since March of last year, the installation has held more than 160 town halls and virtual events and the viewership stays constant.”