THORNTON, Colo. — Peak Martial Arts in Thornton has been teaching students of all ages for more than two decades. But after years of classes and summer camps, it is launching a new program this year: an after-school program.
Owner Jessica Mitchell said she and her husband made the decision to buy a bus and begin transporting kids after school to their studio after hearing from multiple parents desperate for a child care option.
“We have a lot of students here from local elementary schools that were struggling to find care,” Mitchell said. “And so they asked, ‘Hey, have you guys considered, you know, getting a bus and doing after school pick up to add on to that?’ And we thought about it and said, 'You know, absolutely. Sure, why not?'”
Peak Martial Arts is joining a growing number of martial arts studios stepping into the after-school program space to fill a need of the families they serve.
Colorado is facing a child care crisis, one that only grew during the pandemic. According to a study released by the Bell Policy Center last year, there are about 246,000 kids in Colorado under the age of six who have working parents, while licensed providers in the state only have the capacity to serve about 152,000. That leaves a gap of about 94,000 kids, just under the age of six.
In that gap, Peak Martial Arts saw an opportunity to help.
“It is hard for parents… to be able to pick up their kids after school. The schools get out so much earlier, you know, 2:30 [or] 3. Most workdays aren’t done until 5,” Mitchell said. “So how do they fill those couple of hours? How do they keep the kids safe, engaged, keep them having fun? And we kind of had an answer for that.”
Mitchell, her husband, and their team at Peak now offer after-school programs Monday through Friday, which include snack time, guided study when needed, and, of course, martial arts training. The bus they bought —painted blue, with their logo and phone number on the side — picks up enrolled students at the end of their school day and transports them to their studio on 120th Avenue in Thornton, where they partake in structured activities until their parents can pick them up.
Peak worked with the City of Thornton, and now includes four schools in the community. They hope to expand into the Commerce City area in the years to come, and are looking for larger studio spaces to accommodate growing class sizes.
For now, though, they’re happy to take this initial step to be a part of Colorado’s child care solution.
“It takes a village to raise kids… and that can be hard to find. So we pride ourselves on being able to provide that safe and sold foundation,” Mitchell said.