Staying After School in the 21st Century: Benefit, Not Punishment

Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance

Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance, looks on as students paint pictures in the afterschool program at Cattell Elementary School.

Turn the lights on after school, you say?

In this district, they stay on!

Why else did Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance in Washington D.C., pick DMPS to visit on such an auspicious occasion as National Lights on After School Day?

The idea is to spread the reach of quality, enriching afterschool programming into areas where it’s not yet available. Programming like what’s provided at sixteen 21st Century Community Learning Center sites in DMPS (plus another eight summer-only sites), including Cattell where Grant and her host, Michelle Rich of the Iowa Afterschool Alliance, took a tour Thursday afternoon.

The tour guide was Georgia Beeman. Georgia has worked for Metro Kids, the district’s before and after school daycare program, for 10 years and has directed it at Cattell for the last three. As of just this week Cattell has also debuted as a 21CCLC site and Beeman’s in charge of that too.

Cattell is a hub site that draws from other schools.

“Currently we have 67 kids enrolled in 21CCLC and 47 in Metro Kids here,” said Beeman as she counted heads and checked off names pouring off of buses and into the cafeteria for afterschool snacks and play.

Action figures jousted and so did dinosaurs. Board games like Sorry played out. Cheesy crackers were gobbled; milk and juice were guzzled before enrichment programming began at 4:00. That’s when the group subdivided into areas like martial arts in the gym or a social/friendship workshop in a classroom where everyone took turns complimenting one another before putting finishing touches on canvas paintings they’ve been working on.

Grant and Rich tagged along, impressed.

“I chose to be here today, first of all, because Michelle invited me,” said Grant. “But more importantly, because programs like what’s going on here are models for what’s needed in so many places around the country where nothing like this is currently available.”

“Cattell is a pilot site for the merger of Metro Kids and 21CCLC,” said 21CCLC Coordinator Heidi Brown. Currently, 21CCLC is a grant-funded program that is free for users and Metro Kids is fee-based.

“For families and kids the hope and vision is that we will offer high-quality enrichment programs that will be accessible for all students regardless of their ability to pay,” said Brown, adding that all told the 21CCLC is serving about 2,000 kids in the district and another 1,700 participate in Metro Kids.

It still surprises some when they learn that Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of households where both parents work outside the home. So no place is the need greater for quality before and after school opportunities for children than here. “Staying after school” is not a punishment anymore. It’s a perk.

That’s why the state’s largest school district turns the lights on early and leaves them on late on a daily basis, not just on the one day of the year when the rest of the country makes a point of it.

Photos from Afterschool Event at Cattell

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