INDIAHOMA—School districts are being creative in facing budget concerns in Oklahoma. According to state sources, more than 100 Oklahoma school districts last year considered observing four-day school weeks or recently made the switch.
Indiahoma, located 31 miles west of Lawton, implemented the four-day format last fall. As a small community with a population of less than 400 people, parents faced the decision of what to do each Monday, when school wasn’t meeting.
For children in Kindergarten through 5th grade, there is a successful solution. Indiahoma of Comanche-Cotton Association offers “MonDay Camp,” which meets every week during the school year from 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Mondays. Scott and Tami Patton,
members of Indiahoma Church, coordinate weekly activities that provide both academic and spiritual support.
“Sometimes what we may perceive as a problem will end up being a blessing. God disguises blessings in a lot of ways,” said Scott who is a retired Army colonel. “We look at this as a tremendous opportunity not only for children to have augment or academic programs but also for a spiritual blessing to come out of it.”
Indiahoma’s school board approved the schedule change last July. Consulting school leaders, community leaders and church leaders about the idea of the all-day Monday program, Scott and Tami worked with Pastor Les Banks to make MonDay Camp become a reality.
Scott said they started planning in August. “We could have used more planning time, but through a lot of prayers we worked out things logistically,” he said.
MonDay Camp is free to families. Breakfast is offered when children arrive at 7 a.m., and food is provided through donations and contributions. They also offer lunch through supporting local businesses and restaurants.
The church and community have been supportive of the MonDay Camp. Scott said through donations they were able to buy a new basketball goal and take a field trip to a pumpkin patch last fall. He said the Lord has worked through this experience and exceeded expectations.
Even the turnout of children surpassed their projections. Scott said he thought if MonDay Camp drew 25-30 kids each week it would be a good start. Last fall, MonDay Camp enrolled 47 students and averaged 33 kids each Monday.
Chapel is the first activity the children experience at MonDay Camp. Led by Tami and other teachers, they sing Christ-centered songs “with a lot of movement and a lot of action.” They also salute the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible before
they offer a Bible lesson.
Then the children experience sessions of academics but in a lighter setting. Tami has a great team of teachers and workers who help every week, including Yolanda Blakesley (PreK/Kindergarten), Robin Jones (1st and 2nd grade with Tami) and Gayla Cable (3rd-5th grade).
“We make learning fun as much as we can,” said Tami who teaches 2nd grade at Indiahoma Elementary School. She consults other teachers to see what curriculum students are covering those weeks and uses MonDay Camp as a fun preparatory experience, applying games and puzzles with related academic content.
“The school has been wonderful in donating supplies and loaning equipment,” Tami said. “There’s been a good relationship. The teachers are saying (MonDay Camp is) making a difference.”
Banks said the church has been contacted by other churches in surrounding towns, evaluating what Indiahoma Church is doing.
“It’s really an opportunity where you see the church at work, not only helping this community but helping other churches,” Banks said.
MonDay Camp also has seen spiritual fruit blooming. Tami said they are “planting a lot of seeds.” Banks also has spoken with a 5th grade boy who prayed to receive Christ, and Banks is talking to his parents about following through with the observance of baptism.
“Two families have been asking about our church and started coming,” Banks said. “We want them to see that the church is a place where needs are met.”
Discussions have risen among state legislature about school districts observing four-day school weeks. If a law passes that requires school districts to follow the traditional five-day model, Scott said Indiahoma Church will be flexible with how to offer future programs to children.
“We may do an after-school program,” he said. “We can take same principles and apply to another provision.”
Pastor Banks believes MonDay Camp is only the beginning of what his church will be doing in the future.
“We can be the church in ‘here’ because we are the church out ‘there,’” Banks said. “This church is really community-minded, which is how the church is supposed to be. We need to get outside these walls and be a church out there.”