A childcare program in Carbondale has received recognition for attaining the highest level of standards in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Greater Carbondale YMCA’s child care program has met or exceeded the Keystone STARS Performance Standards to achieve 4-star status.

Keystone STARS is the state’s education quality and improvement rating system, which the program’s website describes as “a continuous quality improvement systemic approach to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early and school-age care and education programs.” In other words, the program ensures that participating childcare facilities meet and maintain quality standards.

The Keystone STARS program helps parents understand the quality of a childcare or early learning program by rating programs with from one to four stars based on standards that measure staff education, the classroom and learning environment, how well families and the community are encouraged to become part of the learning process, and the leadership and management of the childcare program.

Mary Pantzar, the childcare director at the Carbondale YMCA, credits her dedicated staff with playing a big role in achieving the highest rating available for the Y’s childcare program. “We have a staff that is truly committed to a high-quality program. All of them work extremely hard to reach this goal, and all of them will continue to work extremely hard to maintain it,” she remarked.

The rating, she explained, was attained by hard work, attention to detail, and a willingness to go the extra mile to include families of the children in helping to create a facility that is “warm, clean, friendly, and welcoming.”

Getting ranked among the best that the state has to offer is not a quick or easy process. A Keystone STARS coach assists each facility in making any changes or improvements necessary to meet the criteria for each rating level.

Performance goals based on the care and education the children receive must be met, and the environment (materials, activities, equipment, classroom layout, and more) must meet or exceed the guidelines. In addition, staff education and training, participation of family members and the community, and strong leadership and business management are all essential to attaining a four-star rating.

Ms. Pantzar and her staff welcomed the scrutiny of the STARS coach and the STARS technical assistant. “We wanted someone on the outside to look at us with fresh eyes, to give us fresh ideas, to help us think outside the box,” she said. She also cited input from the YMCA’s board members and help from her co-workers, especially James Wiggins and Alice Cavalier, as important in reaching the highest STARS rating level.

Yearly evaluations will ensure that the Y’s preschool and childcare centers maintain the high quality of care, functioning, and environment necessary to stay on top of the ratings chart. In the Carbondale zip code, only ABC Academy also attained a four-star rating, making the YMCA’s achievement something important for parents to consider when choosing childcare options.

The YMCA childcare program serves around 200 children from infants through school-age. Some financial aid is available for qualified families. The program is open year-round and is located in the Greater Carbondale YMCA, 82 N. Main St. For more information or to schedule a visit to the facility, please call (570) 282-2210.