Handling homework

Program offers more learning 'After the Bell'

Posted: Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Does your kid need a place to go after school? A little help with school work?

No problem.

The Soldotna After the Bell program got off to a busy start Tuesday at Soldotna Elementary School, and programs at other Soldotna schools, including Redoubt Elementary, Soldotna Middle, Soldotna High and Skyview High kick off next week.

After the Bell first launched several years ago as part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, providing after-school activities, enrichment and tutoring for students. When the program's three-year grant ran out, planners decided to make it a permanent fixture in five Soldotna schools, forming a new nonprofit organization.

These days, executive director Tammy Hanley said participation is down a bit as the program now focuses more on homework than activities and costs a minimal participation fee but plenty of youth still are showing up after the final bell rings.

"We always have enough to keep busy, enough to make it worthwhile," Hanley said.

As the program started up Tuesday at Soldotna Elementary School, about 40 students gathered in the gym for an after-school snack and brief recess, helping them clear their minds and run out a little energy. Then, the students broke into three age-based groups and headed to classrooms to hit the books.

Hanley calls it the "divide and conquer" strategy. A staff member and a tutor oversee each group: first- and second-graders; third- and fourth-graders; and fifth- and sixth-graders.

"We get to know them," Hanley said.

While the tutors and staff members help students with their individual homework each day, the leaders also are there to help students learn good study skills and provide extra enrichment.

"We want to train them to be independent learners," Hanley said.

After an hour of homework, participants get a chance to take a break from their studies for a little learning fun. The program will offer cooking and music clubs, gym games, computer time and art, thanks in part to a grant from 4-H, Hanley said.

At Soldotna Elementary, kids go home by 6 p.m., though the program works a little different at each site.

For example, at Redoubt Elementary, where the Boys and Girls Club also runs an after-school program, students can work on homework with After the Bell until 5 p.m., then take part in Boys and Girls Club enrichment activities.

At Soldotna Middle School, the program runs only until 5 p.m., offering exclusively homework help.

And at area high schools, students may show up for tutoring as needed without even registering with the program (though a small fee is required at Skyview High School, where students can buy "punch cards" for participation days).

After the Bell does require some participation fees, Hanley explained, because the program is run exclusively on grants, fund-raising and fees. But, she said, the program is meant to be affordable for everyone, and scholarships are available.

"We just want to support families by helping with homework," she said.

Students at Soldotna Elementary like fourth-grader Taylor Kline said Tuesday it's already working.

"I like that I get my work done before late at night."

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