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Learning, fun enrich school day

CHESAPEAKE — It’s more than getting a jump on daily homework. It’s getting a jump on life skills, hobbies and activities that will enrich them throughout their lives.

That’s the mission of the after-school program that started this past fall at Chesapeake Middle School, open to fifth to eighth graders.

Starting just before 3 p.m. with a quick snack in the cafeteria, students go through a three-pronged program that runs the gamut from taking a Zumba class to learning a new recipe to try out at home.

After the snack students go to their home-based class where they work on class assignments for the next 40 minutes. If they are having trouble with any particular class, students from the high school volunteer their time for any needed intervention.

“If we don’t finish our homework, they help,” Caylee King, a seventh grader, said.

And sometimes it just takes a little help from their own age group as the students in the homework class offer their own expertise. Next come two 40-minute sessions that are activity-based.

“It is usually really different like volleyball or Spanish,” Caitlin Theisen, another Chesapeake seventh grader, said. “This was really fun and a lot of my friends were doing it. And my mom works late and it is really convenient for both of us. This is kind of convenient for parents who work late.”

During the day Teresa Combs teaches fifth grade language arts, but joins about a half-dozen teachers who stay until 5 p.m. four days a week to monitor or supervise an aspect of the program.

She has seen the combination of schoolwork plus activities bringing rewards to the students.

“They think ‘If I get to stay, I have to do my homework, but I get to do something I like to do,’” Combs said. “They are amazingly well-behaved.”

The after-school program was funded with a $200,000 Ohio Department of Education grant from the ODE’s 21st Century Community Learning Center. It has added eight additional hours a week of teacher-student experience.

Over the next four years, the district can re-apply for the federally funded grant with the potential of bringing a total of $850,000 to the program.

Right now there are 80 students participating on a regular basis.

“At this point I see they are getting a lot of intervention support for kids who don’t have parents who can help with their homework,” Thea Brown, program site coordinator, said. “And they are getting exposed to new activities. A lot of these activities could cost money, but they can experience them for free.”

The roster of activities includes making model airplanes and cars, cooking, Zumba, knitting, volleyball, Spanish and educational games.

“With the educational games, it has built a lot more social skills,” Combs said. “They have better social skills. They have to work together. You might have two personalities who wouldn’t go together in the hallway. But in here it is a whole new ballgame. I have been absolutely amazed with their attitude. I haven’t sense any bitterness because they have to stay. Here they are able to help each other.”