In May of 2010, North Crawford Schools learned that they had been awarded a five-year Community Learning Center Grant to fund their planned “Beyond the Bell” after-school program. Now, the third year in, funding for the program will increase from $80,000 to $100,000 for the year.
“We were given the full amount this year,” said Brandon Munson, the elementary school principal who first sought the grant with assistance from School-to-Work Coordinator Tarasa Lown. “We were awarded this money the last couple years, but because of federal funding shortfalls, we didn’t receive the full amount.”
So what does an extra $20,000 do for the program?
Expect to see the kids, and their families, getting out into the community more and expect to see a more proactive approach in making sure middle school students are getting help with their homework.
The program is open to all students and offers both sessions with homework assistance and enrichment activities. Students must enroll in the program to participate. The forms were sent home to all parents and are also available on the school’s website - www.northcrawford.com.
While K-8 students primarily use Beyond the Bell, there have been some high school students using the program as well.
“They (high school students) don’t usually have the time,” Munson notes. “With sports and extracurriculars, they’re busy. But that doesn’t mean the help won’t be there if they need it.”
Each day of the week sees a different focus.
• Mondays – Math Night
• Tuesdays – Reading and Writing Night
• Wednesday – Workout Wednesdays, the fitness night
• Thursday – Enrichment Night – arts, sciences, and more
• Fridays – Open Library – extended library access, both for materials and computer use.
Each afternoon, participants are offered a snack and a homework help session in addition to themed activities according to the day of the week.
The length of the homework session increases with age, according to Amy Allbaugh, the Beyond the Bell Coordinator.
“For a third to fifth grader it’s 30 minutes,” Allbaugh said. “For a sixth to eighth grader, 45-50 minutes. Their needs change as they get older and are given more work to do.”
Thus far, using the homework help period has been voluntary, insofar as it is the student’s responsibility to use the time as it was allotted. However, Munson noted that around middle school age, students were less likely to make use of the help. So, the school is implementing a referral program for middle schoolers.
“If teachers notice a student struggling or failing to complete assignments, they can refer the student to the program,” Munson said. “Beyond the Bell will then contact the parents to discuss having the student participate.”
Approximately 150-170 students have been using the program each year, according to Allbaugh.
“They don’t sign up for every night, most of the time,” Allbaugh noted. “It averages 60 to 70 students each afternoon. And with our summer programming this year, that meant the school was in use for all but two weeks this year.”
“We are building on this every year,” Allbaugh said. “This year we’re going to work with the community more. We want to let kids know what’s out there. To think about what we have here - jobs that exist in their community, activities in their community.”
The program has offered CPR and safe sitter classes for students and family education classes such as the “Crock Pot Night” offered to parents to teach healthy and tasty foods to be made in a crock-pot while at work. The program has also offered a number of recreation trips, from bowling and swimming to a winter education fieldtrip to Norskedalen.
“We want to continue developing projects, activities, and community partnerships,” Allbaugh added. “We are working with the UW Extension program and groups like the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. But we also want to know about special skills and abilities people have here that they would be willing to teach and share.”
Allbaugh envisions artists, gardeners, builders and more participating with the program to help broaden children’s experience.
“If people have a skill or interest they want, and are able, to share on Thursdays, 3:30-5:30 p.m. I would love to hear from them,” Allbaugh concluded.
With teachers on hand to help them with the academics, the program aims to help North Crawford’s students succeed, occupying the hours between school letting out and parents returning home from work with structure, entertainment and education.
And when evening comes, the Beyond the Bell busses return students to their doorstep. Free of charge.