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Update on afterschool programs at 4 CMS middle schools


April 28, 2009

The nonprofit funder of afterschool programs at four CMS middle schools reported Tuesday on success with the more than 400 children it is reaching.

There are few discipline programs. Recent surveys suggest that problem behaviors like drinking and sex are down among those attending the programs.

But there appeared to be great concern among Forum participants about the thousands of middle-school-aged children who are NOT enrolled in such programs. And not a little wonderment at a community that refuses to consider all its children important enough to ensure access for all children to afterschool care that will keep them off the streets, out of trouble and in a learning environment.

Presenting the program were Dena Paulding, a YMCA University City employee and site coordinator of the afterschool program at James Martin Middle; and Kate Shem, program director, and Claire Tate, president, of Partners in Out-of-School Time or POST.

POST is nearing the end of its second year operating the programs. Amid turnover of partners staffing the programs, POST is also feeling the effects of the recession and is scrambling to find funding.

POST pools donations from the city and county, foundations, individual donors and a little bit of money from CMS. The donors appoint a committee that reviews and recommends partners to operate at four CMS schools. POST pays, for example, the YMCA to hire staff to run the program at James Martin Middle. CMS drives the children home in yellow buses, and gives the programs free rent in the school space. One upshot of such a collaborative program, according to Tate: The YMCA can operate a program for middle schoolers at lower cost at a school site than in its own buildings.

Each afterschool program serves 100 students at a time. Since children involved in athletic programs come and go during the year, more than 100 individuals are served at the sites each year. There is a $10 registration fee per child, but no ongoing charge for participation. Most participants are from low-income families. Paulding said most of the participants at Martin are both African-American and male.

Tate said POST had a contract to continue services at four schools, but county contributions have already been cut for the upcoming school year. "We are prayerful that we will be able to continue next year," she said.

Privacy laws prevent CMS from sharing with the afterschool programs the socioeconomic and academic data that would allow the programs to be sure that the children most in need of the programs are served. To get around that problem, Tate said, the programs invite school staff and principals to recommend children for participation. Tate said she believes the strategy works, and that the students most in need are being served at the four schools covered.

When asked why CMS couldn't do for the children what POST programs were doing, Tate responded, "It's really time.... The school day simply hasn't been expanded."

Tate said some working parents are so worried about what their own children will do if they are left unattended in their own homes that they lock their children out until they arrive home. "That makes me really worried," Tate said. Gang members "are cruising our streets for kids who want to belong and don't have anything to do. We believe it is a community responsibility" to take action to protect the children.

Groups operating POST-funded afterschool programs at Quail Hollow and Albemarle Road Middle Schools will depart in June and will be replaced, Tate said. She said Boys & Girls Clubs would leave Quail Hollow because the Club preferred to operate less-structured programs where students dropped in. Citizens Schools, she said, would leave Albemarle Road because it wanted to run four-day programs, not the five-day program POST has contracted with CMS to operate.































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