SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 25, 2013

Column: After-school programs on the way in Salem

Salem Public Schools and Salem CyberSpace are teaming up to offer a free after-school program starting next month at Collins Middle School for Salem’s middle school students.

Several recent studies have shown that quality after-school programming can make a positive difference on adolescents by enhancing academic achievement and social and emotional development, preventing risky behaviors, and promoting health and wellness.

What is the recipe for quality in after-school programs?

In quality programs, you have highly educated and highly paid staff, highly educated program directors, and smaller group sizes for activities and lower staff/child ratios. You have good connections with schools, community and families, and there is continuous program evaluation of programs and their effectiveness. Programs must be intentional and focused, and there must be sustained participation of students.

Keeping this definition of quality in mind, the Salem Public Schools and Salem CyberSpace recently received a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant for $168,000 to support after-school programs at Collins Middle School. The programs will be free and open to any Salem resident in grades six, seven or eight.

The Learning Center will open Monday, Feb. 25, and will offer project-based activities that are engaging, hands-on and multi-disciplinary in their approach. All activities will have learning objectives tied to Massachusetts’ core curriculum and will be led by licensed teachers. Activities will be chosen based on student-teacher interest and may include projects in culinary, sports/fitness, digital arts or science. Each day will start off with an hour of academic support with small-group instruction.

The program will be offered Monday through Thursday from 2:45 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Each weekday program will include a free snack and Saturdays a snack and free lunch. Students will pick Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, and all students will come on Saturday. Transportation home will be provided during the week and pickup and drop-off on Saturdays. Every other Saturday will include a field trip, which may include visits to college campuses, museums and corporations.

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