MOOERS -- Champlain Children's Learning Center wants to launch a satellite program in Mooers, beginning with summer child care.

"We'd have to get that program registered through the New York State Office of Children and Family Services," said Jamie Basiliere, who heads the Board of Directors for the Rouses Point-based universal pre-kindergarten and child-care center. "So time is of the essence."

She, center Director Nicci Molinski and board member Michale Lahar pitched three proposals to St. Joseph's Parish Council recently, asking to rent the building next door to the church on Maple Street for the purpose.

Along with the summer program for school-age children, they described a before- and/or after-school program for Mooers Elementary School students and pre-K for 30 children.

"Ideally, we'd like to do them all," Basiliere said. "One vision is to begin a full-fledged child-care center for all the ages in that building and have a scaled-down version of the Learning Center."

USE WEIGHED

The Rev. Gerald Cerank, pastor of St. Joseph's, said on Thursday that the proposals are under discussion and no decision has yet been made.

Thursdays, 200 children receive religious instruction in the center, where Girl Scouts and other clubs meet, as well.

The building, a short walk from Mooers Elementary, is where students are evacuated in the event of fire, bomb scare or other situations that require the school be emptied.

Basiliere said she believes Learning Center programs could be set up around others in place there.

"Universal pre-K, if that just took place in the morning in two classrooms of 15 (each), that might stay out of the way of religion classes," she suggested as one arrangement.

COMMUNITY NEED

There is a demand for child care and preschool in Mooers, said Nicci Molinski, who since last month has been Learning Center director.

Since word began circulating about the meeting with St. Joseph's Council, she said, "I've probably gotten 10 phone calls."

And a few children from the Mooers area are enrolled at the Rouses Point center, she added, and their parents would find a location closer to home more convenient.

As it does in the not-for-profit center in Rouses Point, the Mooers summer child care and before- and after-school care would support itself with tuition from parents. A windfall from the state of more than $95,000 would support creation of a pre-K program serving two sessions of 15 children each.

That money comes to Northeastern Clinton Central School, which would make it available to the Learning Center as it has done with pre-K money since startup of the program in 2000.

NEW OPPORTUNITY

The pre-K, offered at no cost, prepares 4-year-olds for kindergarten.

"I'm very excited at the fact that we could possibly provide the same service in the Mooers area that we currently provide in Rouses Point," said Superintendent of Schools Robert Hebert.

The Learning Center, licensed for a total 96 children, is at capacity now, with waiting lists for all its programs. Staff totals 13.

In Mooers, said Basiliere, a summer program for 20 children would require three full-time staffers, with a teacher and aide for each of two pre-K groups. Before- and after-school has a ratio of one adult to every 10 children, minimum.

There's no room to expand the Rouses Point operation, Basiliere said.

The St. Joseph's building is the only possibility for a site in Mooers, she added, so if it isn't available, "we won't do anything.

"And the School District will end up turning back (more than) $90,000 that would support another universal pre-K program of 30 kids."

smoore@pressrepublican.com

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