Thanks to the Abilene School District’s After School Program, for the past eight years kids with working parents have also enjoyed many of those activities instead of going to daycare, or more likely staying home alone.
This year the district will incorporate the same concept with a Before School Program.
According to Dan Brown, director of the Before School Program and co-director with Darcy Hocker of the After School Program, some children will arrive at Kennedy Elementary at 5 a.m.
“This program was set up to help out parents that needed to get to Fort Riley by 6 o’clock for physical training,” Brown said, adding however that it is not just for military families and is open to anyone in the Abilene School District enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade. “They can get the kids up and bring them to us. We’ll put them back to bed for about an hour. There will be a quiet time for the first hour or 45 minutes. If the kid is older and wants to read, we’re not going to force him back to sleep, but we’re going to keep it pretty calm for the first hour.
“After that we’re going to have a wide variety of educational opportunities: physical fitness, science, reading time. If a kid didn’t get his homework done the night before we’re going to have enough staff members there to make that happen,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the parents off to work where they don’t have to worry about their child. Around 7:30 we’ll put them on the school bus and ship them to their attendance center.”
Brown said more and more Abilene residents have to travel farther and farther away from Abilene to jobs.
“This gives them a way to get to the plant or the factory or whatever,” Brown said. “Who do you find to take care of a child at five in the morning? Not everyone in our community now has family members that live here. In the past, if you had to go to work, you could drop them off at mom’s and dad’s, or grandpa’s and grandma’s, and your child would be taken care of. They would be safe.”
Like the After School Program, the new program is funded through a grant which gradually reduces funding until the program is self sufficient. For example, with a partnership with the Abilene Parks and Recreation Department, the After School program does not use district money.
The Before School Program is similar in that the grant money reduces each year and ends after five years.
“This year the cost is $2 per day to get people to try it and see if it works for them,” Brown said. “And then there will be an increase as we go on. By the time the grant is over, this program will be totally self sufficient with no money coming out of the district budget.”
The After School Program has room for 60 children and there was a waiting list during the 2010-2011 school year. Cost for it is $5 a day. One change this year is that the program will run to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. Last year the day ended at 4:45 on Friday. The Before School Program can assist 40 students. Parents sign up at enrollment and acceptance is on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Last year was a very successful year,” Brown said. “Last year we had a waiting list for the K-5 After School Program.
“We try very hard to not be just a babysitting service,” Brown said. “If you go to our web site you can see all the activities we’ve incorporated into our program.”
Brown said the district is aware that students attending both programs are spending time away from family. A student could, for example, go to school at 5 a.m. and not leave until 5:45 p.m., over half the day.
“There are some social issues,” Brown said. “But what would the child be doing if we weren’t there to fill that spot? Here the most capable people are there to help out. We can set that child’s day right and he’ll have a better experience throughout the school day because he has someone waiting for him with a smile or a kind word. There are a lot of single parents out there that will use the program.”
Abilene applied for the grant patterned after similar before school activities at Junction City and Fort Riley.
Both programs are at Kennedy School and students are bused to and from the attendance centers.
“We used to have an after school program at each of the attendance centers,” Brown said. “We found out that it was going to be more beneficial to bring them all to Kennedy School. That way we have one location, one center of communication and if we need to move our help around we had more flexibility. If we had a special event all kids could be involved in that event.”
To find out more, consult the district web page is abileneschools.org.