NYC Middle Schoolers Get Dinner at School

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NYC Middle Schoolers Get Dinner at School

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has delivered to voters his promised expansion of after-school programs. At least 75,000 of the approximately 225,000 middle school students in the city are attending structured programs after the school day ends. This is an additional 31,000 students over last year and further expansion is coming.

PreteensOne mother who works until eight most evenings as a hairdresser transferred her 11-year-old son to a different school because she knew it would offer an after-school program. Other students interviewed had a parent at home; a seventh grader said, “My mom is at home, but she doesn’t speak a lot of English.” Another said that if she wasn’t at the program, “I would be stuck at home trying to do my homework getting yelled at by my mom to do the dishes and take care of my [2-year-old] sister.”

But supporters of the expanded program say it is needed to help students who would be home alone, on the streets, or in city parks.

Programs are run by community organizations; program directors must have a college degree but no educational expertise or experience with children is required. There are 110 community organizations participating in the after-school program.

Officials are working to develop a process to evaluate the “quality and impact” of the programs offered. Some hope an academic focus would mean a continuation of the school day. Others feel that offering children art, music, and sports is a better option. Most sites currently offer a mixed focus.

All the programs give students time to complete their homework. One participating school, Fort Greene Preparatory Academy in Brooklyn, reports homework completion rates have doubled and behavior problems have decreased.

Dinner is served to students at many programs.

Mayor de Blasio is funding the program with a two-year state budget allocation, while he continues to press for a tax increase on wealthy citizens as a permanent funding source.

According to the New York Post, an additional 2,500 spots will open up in March at venues other than public schools. Another 5,000 spots will be available at public schools next fall, which would result in over 105,000 middle-schoolers attending after-school care. (1-16-15)

At P.S. 109, administrators did not present the program to parents and students as optional. “[They] were told the school day for sixth graders would run until 4:50 p.m. Five months into the program, all but three sixth graders attend regularly.” (HechingerReport.org, 11-25-14 and 1-27-15)