St. Bernard Child Care serves kids of all ages Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, May. 31, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
St. Bernard Child Care
Ethanael, a student at St. Bernard Parish’s Catholic Preschool and Child Care Center in Madison, spends a moment in a classroom prayer corner during free time. The parish is starting a "Summer Camp" program for school-aged children this year. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- For more than 30 years, St. Bernard Parish has been serving the east side of Madison, and surrounding community, through its preschool program.

In the past year, that dedication has grown to more opportunities to serve local youth.

Last fall, the parish expanded its preschool to a full child care program.

Starting this summer, school-age children can take advantage of a summer camp-style program.

Building enrollment

With area schools adding programs for children under five, "we had to think of different ways to build our enrollment," said Geri Nehls, interim director of child care at the parish.

Through both lowering the age of children accepted to 2.5 years old, and responding to Pastor Fr. Michael Radowicz's ,call for an all-day daycare program, the expanded opportunities were initiated.

"We looked into the Church's teaching about equity and fairness and equality and how we outreach to the community," said Nehls.

Twenty-five students, ages 2.5 to 4K, take part in the preschool and daycare program at the parish.

They are divided into two classrooms where the days are filled with games, snacks, puzzles, stories, and outside time.

Being a Catholic preschool, there are also Bible stories, lessons about Jesus -- from childhood to his adult ministry -- prayers, and stories about saints.

Lead Teacher for the 4K students Carol McHugh said she likes to "bring it down to their level so they can really connect with it" including "how we can be friends and talk to God in prayer."

The kids also help to keep their classrooms clean, each of them having a different job every day.

Sweeping the floors is a popular one among the children.

Afternoon caregiver Georgia Strebe said it teaches that, "everybody has a job, and it doesn't matter how important it may seem to the rest of the world" and it "builds teamwork".

Part of the community

The preschool and child care programs show the importance of being part of their surrounding community.

Located in the same building as the programs is the St. Mary's Adult Day Care Center.

Whether it's singing songs or puppet shows, McHugh said there is "a lot of interacting with" the Adult Day Care Center community.

Kids will also visit Olbrich Botanical Gardens and nearby parks.

Summer program

Starting this summer, students entering grades one to five can take part in a "Summer Camp".

There will be five two-week sessions all focusing on the theme of taking care of God's earth internally and externally.

The sessions will have activities about farming, bugs and critters, discipleship, water, and concluding with a Summer Olympics theme.

Some children who previously attended St. Bernard Preschool are expected to take part in the summer camp, including some who have siblings in the younger programs.

Older kids can also take advantage of the child care offerings during the school year, before and after school, and can even be walked to and from school.

"It's an important thing for the Church to reach out and be more than just school," said Nehls.

"We feel we're giving our families a really good value," she added. "That's all part of that Catholic identity.

For more information on these programs and pricing, go to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 608-249-9256, Ext. 228.

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