• 81°

Staying late can reap rewards

Eleven-year-old Timothy Deering puts together his 2006 Mustang GT model car during a class Tuesday at the after school program at Chesapeake Middle School. Other classes offered include cooking, walking club, computers, personal fitness and nail design to name a few. THE TRIBUNE/JESSICA ST JAMES

CHESAPEAKE — It’s staying after school with a twist. This time it’s not a form of punishment. Instead it’s a way to get help with tough homework or learn a new skill.

That’s the purpose of the after school program at Chesapeake Middle School funded through a 21st Century learning program grant geared to increase reading and math skills.

“We have seen, as the biggest thing, that the students are reading better,” John Gibson, assistant principal, said. “And when they leave school at 5 p.m., the school work is finished. They don’t have to do homework at 8 o’clock at night.”

The program starts around 3 p.m. with a free snack followed immediately with the students doing all homework that had been assigned that day.

“There are certified teachers in the classes to help them finish their homework,” Gibson said.

Students who are struggling with reading or math can be assigned to intervention classes.

However, after the homework is finished, students can choose one or two activities where they can learn a new skill or polish up an old one. There is scrapbooking, cooking, educational games, Spanish, art, crocheting, even baton twirling.

Teaching twirling is the bailiwick of Chesapeake talented and gifted teacher Terry Montgomery, who sees the program as way of expanding students’ perceptions in more than one way.

“It shows the teacher in a different light,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think many kids ever thought I could twirl a baton. It gives them a different view of you, to see you more as a person. Plus you’re teaching them different skills.”

Right now there are 125 students out of a student body of 450 participating in the program that is free and provides bus transportation home.

“We would like to have the numbers higher,” Gibson said. “We are constantly recruiting more students.”

Besides the hours spent getting homework help students in the program also can take field trips. They have gone to the Newport, Ky., aquarium, the Clay Center in Charleston, W.Va., the Ashland, Ky., Christmas parade and will see the Broadway touring company of “The Wizard of Oz” at the Paramount Arts Center next month.

“Generally we will only charge them a few dollars for lunch,” Gibson said. “Our field trips this spring will be zero for them. The philosophy of the program is we believe all students can learn. Some may need some extra time. This provides the extra time. This gives them the opportunity to give them the extras.”