DRS Offers Safe Haven for Children in the Afternoon

Hanging on the black wire fence surrounding Florida A&M’s Developmental Research School near the main entrance is a small laminated sign stating: “NO Staff Supervision Before 7:30 a.m. and after 3:45 p.m. Do NOT Drop Students Off!”

On Oct. 21, Congress voted on amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Amendments include greater community outreach and partnerships in creating and keeping after school programs.

According to the Afterschool Alliance, a not-for-profit organization advocating afterschool programs for children, Congress proposed a more than 40 percent cut in funding to the Child Care Development Fund, leading to a nationwide decrease in afterschool programs.

While there are several afterschool programs available for students, elementary school principal Angelia Rivers said students loitering after school hours is an ongoing issue FAMUDRS faces.

There are three main programs offered to students for afterschool care: a program sponsored by St. John Missionary Baptist Church, the SMART program, sponsored by FAMU’s College of Education, and FAMUDRS’ Extended Day Program.

While the program through St. John and the SMART program are free for students, the Extended Day Program has a registration fee of $50, a monthly fee of $130 and a daily drop-in fee of $20 for students who aren’t enrolled.

The program is funded through the student fees. Rivers said while St. John’s program and the SMART program specifically target low-performing students, it is open to all students who fill out the required paperwork.

“Every student could use help, whether on grade level or not,” Rivers said.

The Extended Day Program, however, has a limit of about 35 students, with a waiting list of parents interested in enrolling their children.

Natalie Richardson, the EDP coordinator, said one of the main focuses of the program that she believes makes it so popular is the balance between work and play. Around an hour and 15 minutes is spent daily on homework, she said. Then, once all work is completed, students play games and do arts and crafts.

For the month of October, the focus was art. Students learned about famous artists and emulated painting styles of artists like Van Gogh.

“We really try to keep them entertained,” Richardson said. “They don’t always want to do homework, reading and math, so we try to let them have fun, too, with activities that involve movement and play.”

Jonah Smith, 7, a second-grader at FAMUDRS, said his favorite part of participating in the Extended Day Program goes beyond playing “freeze dance,” planting gardens, creating Chinese lanterns and eating snacks.

“I sure hope they keep it, because I just want to see my friends again,” Smith said.

Pamelia Hawkins has enrolled her son Tyler in the program every year for the past three years. Hawkins works full-time from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and said the program is not only convenient, but a great resource for her 7-year-old.

“I like the school, and they do a lot of educational things,” Hawkins said. “I didn’t want to put him somewhere where they’re just babysitting and he’s not learning anything. I missed it so much over the summer.”

According to a survey from the Afterschool Alliance, around 20 percent of all children in Florida are enrolled in an afterschool program, higher than the national average of 15 percent. However, more than 25 percent of children in the state are in self-care, where they are alone after school between the hours of 3 p.m. – 6 p.m., the survey reported.

Richardson stressed the importance of parents finding an afterschool program or activity for their children.

“It provides a safe place for students to be. Sometimes students are just hanging around outside, and it’s really not safe,” Richardson said. “There’s no adult supervision. Programs like this allow them to interact with kids their own age and have fun.”