June 20, 2021

BRIDGING THE GAPS: YMCA and NCSD join forces to better the community

Partnership creates before- and after-school programs, pre-K curriculum, sports for grades 5-6

The Newton School District and local YMCA have formed a partnership that will result in the launch of before- and after-school programs for students this fall, but the collaboration could grow further to include a shared pre-K curriculum and a sports program for fifth and sixth graders, pending school board approval.

Officials say students and families will benefit from this alliance, which also serves to “bridge the gap” between the two community entities.

Newton YMCA CEO Lucas Hughes said the partnership has been in the works for the past year, deriving from discussions with administrators like superintendent Tom Messinger, director of teaching and learning Bret Miller, business services director Tim Bloom and middle school principal Lisa Sharp.

“Just the fact that Tom Messinger opened up his doors to the Y for the first time is a phenomenal thing,” Hughes said of the possible collaboration with Newton schools. “We can have two really community-oriented organizations come together and actually make something greater.”

Both Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and Emerson Hough Elementary School will serve as the primary sites for the new before- and after-school child care services hosted by the YMCA, which Hughes indicated could expand to the other applicable district campuses in spring 2022 if successful.

Registration for before- and after-school services will begin July 1.

Messinger said the before- and after-school programming with the YMCA was already approved by the school board this year. From there, the conversations developed into preschool curriculum services, which will be on the board’s agenda June 14. Messinger sees no downsides to the collaboration.

“I think any type of partnership a school district can have with a different community partner is a benefit to everybody,” Messinger said. “The school district relies on the entire community to support it, whether it be through tax dollars or through different activities or ways community members or businesses volunteer.”

Forming alliances with other organizations is quite common for school districts, Messinger said. For instance, Jasper County Conservation often works with the elementary schools for lessons. The YMCA, too, holds events for the youth in town, which Messinger said in turn assist the school district.

“These types of things happen when everybody works together,” he added. “A lot of times you get more benefit out of it when everybody’s on the same page and you’re pooling energy and resources together to help the process.”

To continue the growth of children staying in Newton, Hughes said the YMCA is also bringing in the school district’s pre-K curriculum. Currently, the Newton Community School District operates its own voluntary preschool sessions Tuesdays-Fridays at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

YMCA offers all-day care, but as a result of the partnership will add the school district’s curriculum. Hughes said a teacher employed by Newton will provide full-time instruction at the YMCA, which he believes will help the organization reach more kids and provide a better quality of life for the community.

“There’s a major need in every community — in Iowa, especially — where families just need care from 3 to 6 o’clock at night, so they can get off work and know their child is being taken care of,” Hughes said. “So whenever you’re at work we can now bridge that to where they’re just being productive at school still.”

Sports opportunities for fifth- and sixth-grade students fill in the gaps of activities for children transitioning from the elementary buildings to Berg Middle School. Hughes said seventh- and eighth-grade sports program are currently covered by the middle school, but fifth and sixth grade don’t have the sustainable funding.

“The fifth and sixth grades will now be served by the YMCA,” Hughes said. “We’ll be coming to them. We’ll go out to Berg Middle School and we’ll host track and field, volleyball, basketball, soccer and flag football. We’ll do that throughout the year where we can be good partners and find the gym space and all that stuff.”

If the NCSD Board of Education approves the shared pre-K curriculum at the YMCA and the sports activities for the younger middle schoolers, all three new additions would be available at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The pre-K teacher will be hired and working at the YMCA by then.

Hughes said the Newton YMCA benefits from the partnership by being able to better serve the community and having a bigger footprint in town. The mission of the organization is to provide programming to the public that will “build a better mind, body and spirit for all,” which Hughes said applies here, as well.

“We get to reach more children and we get to provide that service that nobody else can right now,” Hughes said. “Our role is to serve our community and to build stronger communities, to build stronger families. We also have a social responsibility to give back, and if there’s a need we’re there to fill it.”

Newton YMCA Child Care Director Wesley Triplett is looking forward to setting a standard for other communities to model after.

“The public-private partnership allows two entities that are very good at what they do to work with each other towards a common goal,” Triplett said. “This partnership between the Newton YMCA and the Newton Community School District will foster service in some new and amazing ways.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.