Symmes Valley implements after-school program

Published 5:59 am Saturday, April 9, 2022

AID — A new afterschool program launched this year by Symmes Valley schools is already showing results.

“We’ve seen improvement,” Debbie Saunders, a sixth through eighth grade math intervention specialist, who heads the program said. “Test scores are up and spelling scores are up. The students are getting extra help.”

Saunders said the program launched in January, just after the President’s Day holiday, and meets three days a week for an hour and a half after classes at Symmes Valley Elementary School.

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“It’s open to everyone,” she said, noting that 130 of the school’s 580 K-8th grade students take part in it.

Two bus drop off sites have been designated for the district and parents may also pick children up.

The program is staffed by full-time teachers and one aide and Saunders said they try to keep the ratio of students to teachers at 10:1.

In addition, she said the school’s cooks prepare snacks for the students to enjoy at its start, while there are guests who take part, such as the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library staff and Rachael Fraley, the extension educator for Lawrence County 4-H through the Ohio State University.

Saunders said the time after school is split into two halves, with the first being groups for homework help and academics and the second being a “student choice” period, where they can do things such as crafts, socialization and physical education.

These can also take the form of story time, with reading by staff from the library, who is a stakeholder in the program, or activities with Fraley, who teaches skills such as using Apple Swift coding to draw on a plastic sphere.

Another guest was Brea Belville, a senior at Symmes Valley High School, who taught the children letter writing, Saunders said.

Belville, a Lawrence County Civic Scholar, asked the children to write letters to first responders as part of a project started by another student in the scholar program.

Saunders said the program is in a “trial phase” for now and will be return for the next school year, starting in October, then taking a break at Christmas and resuming for the second half of the year.

“This is so we know how to better implement it and put it in place,” she said of the trial period.

She said the program is paid for through money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which the district received due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saunders said the program aims to help students “catch up” from any disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.

She said that the program is beneficial to students, as it provides time and resources in a school environment that they may not have at home, with staff on hand who can meet their needs.

“We’re providing enrichment,” she said. “And they can do school things at school and do home things at home. It frees them up once they get finished here and everybody’s roles are in place.”

She said the program has proved popular, as results of a survey sent to parents recently showed.

“We’ve received all positive feedback,” she said.