School board members are taking the first steps to fill a hole they see in the South San Francisco Unified School District with a pilot program for middle school after-school programs, much to the delight of district parents.
At a meeting Thursday night, the Board of Trustees voted 4-0 to add pilot programs for this coming school year at Alta Loma and Westborough middle schools, while transporting some students in district vehicles to Orange Park’s Boys & Girls Club program. Parkway Heights Middle School students would be bused to Orange Park. A total of 60 students from Alta Loma and Westborough combined would go to after-school programs in portables on campus, while 12-15 students from each middle school will be sent to Orange Park.
“I’m super excited,” said Reem Nasrah, a district parent of three who was part of a group of parents that rallied for after-school programming. “I don’t have any kids who need any after-school programming, but I’ve been rallying for kids who do need it. The parents pulled it all together.”
This is a really great move forward for the district, said Trustee Philip Weise.
“We’re beginning it for middle schools because we haven’t had that yet,” Weise said. “I would like to expand that though; I would like to see universal, free after-school programs for middle schools. … If we can find something to occupy middle school students after school, it will reduce crime and enhance educational programming.”
The district began to explore adding after-school programs for middle schoolers after parents approached the school board looking for more options. The new Local Control Funding Formula comes with a Local Control Accountability Plan that requires districts to outline how they plan on spending their funds. Some would like to see some of that money go toward establishing an after-care program in all of the city’s middle schools. At this point, however, there will be no funding put into the programs, essentially meaning parents will fully fund the programs. Some currently use the after-care programs offered by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for their elementary school students, but there is no such program for middle schoolers.
Ultimately, the Middle School Out of School Time Committee formed with nearly 20 members of the district community. There were four students, 10 parents, board President Maurice Goodman and Trustee Patrick Lucy, two staff members, one program provider and five additional members in the audience made up of PTA leadership.
“The committee, despite being put together in less than a week, was very well representative of our community and the school sites,” Goodman wrote in an email. “I am very pleased with the committee’s focus, flexibility and professionalism. From the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to the parents, everyone worked together to come up with a temporary solution to an issue that families deal with every day. Out of school time is great opportunity for educators to reinforce classroom teaching and an even greater opportunity to infuse some ‘fun’ in learning while providing a safe place for children during a time when they are most likely to be a victim of neglect, bullying or crime.”
In terms of the types of programming offered in the new pilot program, Weise said the board will probably be able to have a recommendation for programming. Personally, he would like to see keyboarding skills and coding taught, along with science, history, biology, physics, the arts and things that would spark the imagination of students.
Meanwhile, other community members are ecstatic with the board’s decision.
“We’re really happy with the results of the pilot program,” said parent and committee member Maria Vasquez, who hopes to have her oldest son in the pilot this fall. “It will benefit a lot of kids and we’re pretty excited about that.”
At this point the district is not putting any funding into the programs, but will talk about funding for the vehicles at a special board meeting on July 1. The committee will continue meeting and will eventually evaluate the pilot program, while also looking for other programs at the end of next school year to look for a longer term sustaining program in the 2015-16 school year. The committee has yet to come up with a recommendation on how to select students for the pilot, Vasquez said.
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