Leapin’ Lizards seeks out board members

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

High Desert Leapin’ Lizards Inc., a nonprofit child-centered organization, is alive and well in Ridgecrest. Since 1995 the group has provided high-quality state-funded half-day preschool and after-school services for qualifying families at Inyokern, Pierce and Faller elementary schools.

The organization is governed by a board of directors, which is currently seeking two new members to replace outgoing members. The all-volunteer board meets on the first Flex Friday of each month, 8:30-10:30 a.m., and occasionally for special events.

“We’re always seeking board members among the parents of students, and community members who have a passion for working with kids, families, and education,” said Kristina French, program director.

“We’re still growing. We have 42 staff members and a budget of $715,000. We serve approximately 240 after-school kids and 120 preschoolers. Our board members are very supportive and attend program functions to see everything we’re involved in.”

The Leapin’ Lizards Child Care Center, which operated here a few years back, “closed in January of 2009, but the nonprofit corporation stayed running all along,” said French. The preschool programs are for children age three to four, and eligibility is based on income and family size. The after-school program is for grades K-5.

“This is designed to help kids become successful in academics during the school day,” said French. “We help them do their homework, and provide enrichment activities they may not get otherwise, such as dance instruction, Scouting, access to computers and the school library and so on.”

A Zumba instructor has come in to work with the youngsters, and several volunteers have presented programs on chemistry and robotics.

She said the group is also looking for people to teach music. Since the major budget cuts in schools all across the state, few schools can offer music instruction, so it becomes even more important in settings like this.

“We’ve got guitars and keyboards, but no one to teach them. We’re looking for volunteers or teachers we could contract with to provide that instruction,” said French.

“The Department of Education’s new mandate is that we had to start charging a fee for our preschool services. This could be free up to $8 per day per child. The majority of our families receive the service for free. People need to come in and talk to us, to find out if they’ll have a fee or not. Many families may qualify and not realize it,” said French.

The group also opened up a new option this year. “We’re now accepting paying families, at $21 per day per child, if they choose to do this,” she said.

The combination of preschool and after-school programs at the same schools allows families with more than one child in school to drop them all off together, as well as allowing the little ones to acclimate to the school environment and get to go to school with their older siblings.

For more information, contact French at tfrench@ssusd.org, or see the Leapin’ Lizards website at www.hdllrc.org.

Story First Published: 2012-09-05