Federally funded after-school programs will be added to nine Springfield public schools within the next couple of months as part of what has become a statewide effort to improve such offerings.
The new programs would more than double the number of local schools that offer the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Programs, an after-school initiative for at-risk students run locally by the Boys Girls Clubs, according to Pete Sherman, the Springfield School District’s spokesman.
Illinois is already among the top nine states for after-school activities, according to a recent survey by Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization. The surveys are conducted every five years.
States were ranked based on:
* Change from 2004 until 2009 in after-school program participation;
* The number of students left unsupervised during afternoons; and
* Legislation, funding and leadership supporting the programs.
“We know from a wealth of data that have been collected over the last decade that after-school programs keep kids safe, help working families and support learning,” said Jen Rinehart, Afterschool Alliance’s vice president of policy and research. “Kids who are participating in after-school are less likely to get in trouble, they are more likely to attend school regularly, get better grades (and) go on to the next grade on time.”
‘Core area’ focus
Eight Springfield schools currently offer 21st Century after-school programs. They provide students a half-hour for snacks and recess, an hour of academics and an hour of activities that range from sports to theater.
“It targets at-risk students, or students who have a certain profile, whether it’s low-income or those who benefit from some more support after school,” Sherman said.
Six of the new programs will be run by the Boys Girls Clubs, he said. The other three will be run by the Springfield Urban League.
The program at McClernand Elementary School, 801 N. Sixth St., focuses on five “core areas” that include the arts, character and leadership, sports and fitness, career development and education, and health and life skills, according to Mike Paulauskis, who is the school’s 21st Century site director.
At the beginning of the year, Paulauskis chooses students who are underperforming academically, as well as those who need role models.
“We target students that obviously need to improve, to be quite honest,” he said. “There’s also a social component as well to this program. Some students may be acting out, maybe socially are not where they should be.”
Halfway through the year, the program is opened to all students, he added.
Right now, 70 students are in the program. By the end of the year, Paulauskis expects 110.
Cheyenne Street, a fifth-grader, has attended McClernand’s after-school program for three years. She appreciates the help she receives during the academic “power hour.”
“It’s pretty fun,” she said. “You always get help, no matter what.”
Michael Jones, also a fifth-grader, said the program gives him the chance to play sports after school.
“Mostly I like basketball,” he said.
Illinois on right path
The state has done much to improve after-school programs, but more work is needed, Rinehart said.
“There is more work to be done in Illinois to get more kids into after-school and to improve satisfaction and availability of programs. But having said that, there’s been a lot of work in recent years that sets the stage,” she said. “So we’re hopeful to see a greater increase in the state the next time that we do the survey.”
Sixteen percent of Illinois students — roughly 363,000 children — participate in after-school programs, Rinehart said. That includes more than 48,000 who participate in 21st Century Community Learning Centers Programs.
Twenty-eight percent of students are on their own in the afternoons, and 44 percent would participate in an after-school program if it was available, the study shows.
Rinehart cited legislation, the Illinois Afterschool Youth Development Program Act, that makes access a state priority. The act was signed into law in July 2010.
“That law really strengthened after-school services by creating something called the Illinois Youth Development Council, and it also created a three-year after-school demonstration program,” she said.
The youth development council focuses on making after-school programs more accountable through a common set of standards and data collection, she said.
“The governor is currently beginning to make appointments to that youth development council,” she said, “so again, these are all things that are in the works but not fully in place at this point.”
21st Century programs
Springfield schools that offer 21st Century Community Learning Centers Programs
* Jefferson Middle School, 3001 Allis St.
* Grant Middle School, 1800 W. Monroe St.
* Washington Middle School, 2300 E. Jackson St.
* McClernand Elementary School, 801 N. Sixth St.
* Enos Elementary School, 524 W. Elliott Ave.
* Graham Elementary School, 900 W. Edwards St.
* Harvard Park Elementary School, 2501 S. 11th St.
* Feitshans Academy, 1101 S. 15th St.
YMCA provides care in three districts
The Springfield YMCA provides before- and after-school care for elementary-aged students in three Sangamon County school districts.
YMCA staff members work at schools in the Ball-Chatham, Rochester and Riverton school districts. The program also operates on school holidays and early-dismissal days.
“The Y is contracted by the school district to be the manager of the program, and we work in close cooperation with the schools,” YMCA associate executive director Jill Steiner said.
“The actual registration and all of the fees and paperwork come directly through the Y. Parents pay a fee, and we also accept third-party providers such as (the Department of Children and Family Services).”
Steiner said the YMCA provides financial assistance for low-income families.
Weekly rates for before-school-only care are $30 for YMCA members and $40 for non-members. The fee for after-school-only care is $60 per week for members and $65 for non-members. For both before- and after-school care, the YMCA charges $75 per week for members and $78 for non-members.
Part-time care is available some days of the week for $15 a day, depending on capacity.
Steiner said the program’s reimbursements from the state for providing care to low-income children have remained flat while other costs have risen.
“So the working parents who need aid have to pay more of the portion then they did before, and that has put a real strain on some family budgets,” Steiner said. “It also strains our financial aid, which is raised by our donors and members. Sometimes we max out.”
The program’s size differs by school due to limits on the number of children present per square foot.
“It can range from 50 to 80, depending on the space the schools assign to us,” Steiner said. “Chatham and Rochester run close to capacity most of the time.”
Ball-Chatham’s YMCA child-care program takes place at its three elementary school buildings, with fifth-graders from Glenwood Intermediate School getting bused to Ball Elementary School.
The YMCA works in Rochester at its Elementary 2-3 school, with the kindergarten and first-grade students walking over from their elementary center, and at the intermediate school.
In Riverton, middle school students are bused to Riverton Elementary School to take part.
The Y’s school care program, which began during the 1995-96 school year in Rochester, provides children with a snack and at least 20 minutes of physical activity a day. Students also complete at least one art project and one cooking project a week. Students are able to spend time at various centers, which include reading, drawing and Legos, as well as receive homework help.
“We’re open to having other schools,” Steiner said, noting an invitation must come from the school superintendent or school board.
“We believe we play vital roles with those children’s development.”
Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525.