Wednesday, December 16, 2015

After School Woes

If you weren't aware, tonight is the Waltham School Committee meeting and the schools will be presenting Quality Improvement Plans addressing specifics on how to address inequities and gaps in education at each school.  As a member of the McDevitt School Council, I have been privy to that school's plan, as well as the plan at the Fitzgerald.  I'm very excited to drink wine and fold laundry and watch the SC on the teevee tonight.

Quality Improvement Plans, however, are not what I want to write about today; rather, I'm going to whine about my predicament with my newly minted Middle Schooler.  It seems that, as soon as one enters 6th grade, regardless of age or background or ability or any sort of measurement of readiness, one is considered ready to come home by oneself.  The YMCA had a program for teens, in which 'tweens' were allowed to participate, however, that program has been left in the lurch and the Y has no plans to revisit it.  The Boys and Girls Club has a space for teens and tweens to hang out, however, there is no transportation.  And yes, the B&G Club is walking distance from the McDevitt, and doesn't require crossing Main Street, however, it's still a lot to ask of an 11 year old boy who can't find his socks in the morning.

I know what you're thinking: when you were in 6th grade, you walked home from school with no shoes and came in and started cooking dinner and finished the ironing.  And I get that, because I truly did come home from school and cared for an aging grandmother and an infant brother.  Times have changed, though, and the expectations are different.

That is, Jack spent the first 6 years of school going to the Y after-school program on site at the Fitz. We don't have the luxury of having family in the area, so there are no abuelas or peperes or aunties or uncles who can pop by and see how he's doing. He does have a phone, although, at times, he goes outside to shoot baskets in our driveway and leaves the phone inside, causing his dad to have a heart attack.  I can live with the two hours that Jack spends alone most days, from 3 until a little after 5 when my husband gets home.  The real issue arises when there is a school day off that isn't a holiday for most people, early dismissal days, and vacation weeks.  What are we going to do in February and again in April?  And it's not just knowing that he's safe, it's having him engaged and doing something other than watching Sponge Bob or Uncle Grandpa or Dude Perfect.

When I wrote to the Y to ask about programming for teens, I received a reply stating that they can't have the middle-schoolers on site because the Y is not "a licensed day care."  And yet, there will be about 200 elementary school kids on site for December break and again in February and again in April.  Additionally, the kids will be back for camp in June.  So, I'm not sure that I understand that premise.  Really, Y?  Is there an age cut-off during the school year that magically disappears when I'm spending thousands of dollars each summer for camp?

The Y also, helpfully, told me that, as a member, Jack can come in and use the facility.  Except, since he's 11, he can't use the cardio equipment or go into the weight room and I don't think that he can be in the pool unless I'm there, although I could be wrong about that.  Also, I would be extremely concerned about him walking to the Y and crossing at the intersection of Beaver and Lexington. Finally, though he may not require constant supervision, he does need some structure.

The Y has provided safe and effective after-school care at the Fitzgerald for both of my kids for the last six years, as well as camp that works with a working-person's schedule (is open before nine and stays open after 4.)  I have to think, though, that between the Y and the BGC and Waltham Public Schools, something could be done to address after-school programming, especially for grades 6 and 7 on a more pro-active basis.

A long time ago, a group of parents at the Fitz had after-school programming in which we brought in outside teachers and experts in various subjects, like art, dance, tennis, woodworking, outdoors exploration, 'mad' science (pouring Coke over Mentos, etc.), gardening at Waltham Fields, stagecraft, games with an avant-garde group from Cambridge, etc.  The cost for the programs were quite low and there were scholarships for any student who couldn't pay.  Is it time to look at something like this, run by the district, for our Middle Schoolers?

Or, who wants a well-behaved, somewhat disorganized, cute 11 year-old for a week in February and again in April?

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