Back To School: CYS hosts open house at Youth Center

Child and Youth Services Administrator Tamara Johnson shows parents and children the dining and lounging areas in the Youth Center during a tour of the facility at the CYS Open House on Monday evening. (Photo by Tynise Jones)

For two hours on Monday evening, Fort Meade’s Child and Youth Services hosted an open house to introduce the changes at the Youth Center.

Over 30 parents, particularly moms and some children, gathered in the Youth Center gymnasium to learn about the changes.

CYS Administrator Tamara Johnson served as host and took questions from parents.

“I’m super excited about the opening,” Johnson said after the event. “I think it’s going to be a bit strange in the beginning, but it’s going to become the new normal very quickly.”

Starting Tuesday, School Age Center II will offer students who attend Manor View and Pershing Hill elementary schools before- and after-school care at the Youth Center, located at 909 Ernie Pyle St.

School Age Center I will offer before- and after-school care to students attending West Meade Early Education Center, as well as Meade Heights and Seven Oaks elementary schools.

Two months ago, CYS announced plans to reconfigure its school-age programs in order to reduce the nearly 200-person waitlist for School-Age Services.

To accommodate the move to the Youth Center, the CYS middle school program is relocating to the Teen Center at 3102 MacArthur Road. Middle school children will continue to receive before- and after-school care at the Youth Center.

The merger will help Fort Meade meet Installation Management Command guidance to maximize child care spaces and meet 85 percent or more of authorized funded space capacity, said CYS Administrator Francisco Jamison.

“Both the middle school and teenage programs [were] not meeting the space requirement numbers for being housed in separate facilities,” Jamison said.

With the programs for students in grades six to 12 uniting, members will routinely have daily interaction at the Teen Center with youths who are older and younger.

“The children are really going to have an opportunity to experience some new things,” Jamison said. “It will be a little bit of organized chaos, but the key word is organized.

“We’re definitely looking forward to what’s going to happen.”

Parents attending Monday’s open house were enthusiastic about the changes, but some expressed concern about younger children mixing with older students.

“I’m excited about the change because it’s bigger and there’s more opportunity, but I’m just not OK with the eighth-graders hanging out,” Nicole Atz said. “My son is in the third grade and I just think the eighth-graders will have too much of an influence on him.”

Despite her concerns, Atz said there is an upside to blending the two facilities.

“It is a bigger area, and there’s a lot more to do,” said Atz, who resides in Midway Commons.

Some staff from the School Age Center, formerly School Age Services located at 1900 Reece Road, will be joining the Youth Center to make it a more familiar environment for the youngsters.

The children also will be reunited with some of their former classmates.

“My child’s first reaction was, ‘It’s going to be weird’ just from seeing that the classrooms were smaller,” said Reneta Zacarkim, who lives in Potomac Place.

“She’ll still have some of her school friends and some of the same teachers. So overall, she’s excited about change. She likes change. She’s a military kid.”

During the open house, CYS Administrator Tamara Johnson speaks to a group of over 30 parents about the changes to the Youth Center. Middle-schoolers will now share the facility with younger students in first through fifth grade in order to reduce the long waitlist for School-Age Services. (Photo by Tynise Jones)

CYS Training Specialist Derrick Trautman also spoke to the parents while answering their questions alongside Johnson.

“There’s great opportunities and excitement to go along with this,” Trautman said. “I think it’s going to be a great success because we don’t have a history; we’re starting fresh.”

After the meeting in the Youth Center gymnasium, parents were taken on a tour around the building. They were able to see some of the classrooms, dining area and the upstairs lounge for the middle school children.

“I believe this change will help the children to grow,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Lynesha Oates, whose children will attend the combined centers.

“This move will give them a chance to see how they should behave and act as an older child when they go to another program.”

Lisa Winebrenner, a grandmother who resides in Potomac Place, was pleased with the convenience that the combined programs offer.

“I’m super excited that the kids don’t have to go out the gate to go to 1900 just to come back on,” she said. “I think the kids are resilient; it’s the parents who are fearful.

“I had great experiences with School-Age Services in the past, so I’m happy.”

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