New Canaan's before- and after-school programs keep kids engaged
Published 8:30 pm, Wednesday, May 4, 2011
For some kids, the concept of spending even more time at school is unimaginable. So when Bill Kapp, assistant director of the New Canaan Recreation Department, said a new pilot program for before- and after-school sessions at the elementary schools is a success, it is cause to stop and listen.
"For those that took advantage of it, it was a successful operation," Kapp said. "It was also successful here on my end."
Approximately 300 students participated in the five-week programs, which took place kicked off April 1.
"A couple of programs did not take place because we did not have enough kids," Stephen Benko, director of the Recreation Department said. "But I think we had good participation considering not too many people had heard about the initiative. Attendance has been good and we're very happy."
The benefit, Kapp says, of having these programs at the schools themselves is so parents do not have to worry about the transport of their kids from one facility to another. They essentially stay in the building they have been in all day and, in some cases, are even taught by the same teachers. Instructors for different programs offered were a mix of actual elementary school teachers and some independent contractors.
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Another benefit, Kapp said, for the programs was the cost. The cost of the program is essentially offset by the fees parents pay to have their kids enrolled.
"This was priced and designed so that we, at the very least, break even," he said. "Turns out we actually ended up making a small profit as well."
This pilot program went into action after the Board of Selectmen approved the measure a couple of months ago. At that meeting, the selectmen approved the measure and asked Kapp to return once the program was complete to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the program moving forward.
"We need to go back to the selectmen to ask for permission for the program to continue," Kapp said. "I plan on suggesting new things for the fall as well as a possible middle school program as well."
In terms of specific activities offered , Kapp said they were a mix of educational and enrichment programs.
"The educational sessions had math, science, social studies, English and foreign language options," he explained. "The enrichment programs had more to do with hobbies for these kids to explore at this young age. Those sessions included different dance classes, cheerleading and soccer."
As it turns out, the different dance classes turned out to be the hands-down favorite, Kapp said.
"The dance classes were the most popular," Kapp said. "And what's great is that they were all different in nature."
With the pilot program quietly finishing up, Benko and Kapp hope they can move forward in the fall with a more permanent setting.
"Given that we were late getting started, it was successful," Benko said. "It's really just great for the kids and parents. We are barely making a profit with this. We just want to offer some good options to our kids out there."
Kapp also stressed the importance of children just having a change of pace in terms of having activities outside of school.
"Having these programs is great for the students," Kapp said. "It is certainly important for them to do something a little different from the norm outside of school hours."
Superintendent Dr. David Abbey agrees with Kapp that stimulating these kids outside of school in different ways is great for all those involved.
"Providing students with an array of interesting activities, including opportunities to move around, explore and exercise are vital to a student's development. In some ways, it's as important as educational development," Abbey said.
He also spoke on the importance of balancing technology to benefit these kids. He believes that having programs like these will keep them from relying solely on technology.
"I think sitting in front of a computer screen or only relying on online activities for your social life is obviously very limiting," Abbey added. "There need to be a balance with technology and I think the idea of providing students opportunities in structured activities and free play where they make their own games and rules is key in that balance."