509-J learning center offers after-school electives
A free after-school academic enrichment program kicked off Nov. 5, for students in the 509-J School District.
Referred to as the district's Community Learning Center, the program is directed by Katie Boyle, who graduated from Madras High School, and has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and master's in administration.
While its office is located at Jefferson County Middle School, its program operates in three schools. Elementary students from Madras and Metolius are bused to JCMS for activities, while Warm Springs K-8 Academy and Madras High School have their own programs, all from 3:30-6 p.m.
In Warm Springs, the focus is on learning the three Warm Springs tribal languages, and at the high school, the activities are tutoring in math, English, science and Spanish, with Native American languages as an elective.
The majority of students go to JCMS, where students have recess and a hot meal from 3:30-4 p.m., help with reading, writing and math from 4-5 p.m., then get to choose an elective class for the last hour from 5-6 p.m. The program is offered Monday through Thursday, through the end of May.
Current electives include robotics, cookie making, paper airplane making, cursive handwriting, art, music, cooking, STEM classes, and sewing. Boyle said they have eight sewing machines and need more donated so they can offer beginning and intermediate sewing classes.
"The balloon-powered vehicle class is insanely popular," Boyle noted.
Last Thursday, students in Margee O'Brien's class were diligently practicing cursive writing in special notebooks, while those in the robotics class were clustered around laptops to get instructions on how to program their robots. In other rooms, kids were frosting cookies and working on Thanksgiving art projects.
"It's a Community Learning Center and the point is to get the community involved by having community people come in. We have a 4-H club teaching 'Meat Magic,' where kids learn about the cuts of meat. Mary Bravo is doing Zumba dance, and OSU Nutrition is a partner," Boyle said.
"We are trying to get electives back into kids' hands that have been taken out of the schools," Boyle said. "We have partnered with the Kids Club to use their game room, to offer piano lessons (from Kids Club employee Gregg Vineyard), and a Chess Club," she added.
Funded by an Oregon Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, the program will receive $500,000 for its first three years, then $375,000 its fourth and fifth year.
The program is organized into four six-week sessions, with a new set of electives for each session.
"We can only take 25 students per grade level and are full now with a wait list," Boyle said. Figures show a total enrollment of 278 students, with 172 at JCMS, 70 at Warm Springs, and 50 at MHS.
Registration forms were sent home with all students and signups were on a first-come, first-served basis, Boyle said. Kids who are in the first session have first pick to continue in session 2. "But some will have sports and will drop out. After two sessions, the program is open to all students again," she explained.
For more information about the next sessions, contact the Community Learning Center office at 541-475-0388, or check the Facebook page under "Jefferson County Community Learning Center."
Effect on Kids Club
When it was announced that 509-J would be starting a free after-school program, some were worried about the impact on the Jefferson County Kids Club, which charges for its after-school program.
"In the beginning, it was scary. But we met with (509-J administrator) Melinda Boyle and then knew it was just another program and what we needed in Jefferson County," said Kids Club Operations Director Caren Smith.
"We haven't seen a decrease in attendance. There are 100 kids enrolled now, which is average for the school year, and have been seeing 65-75 kids per day, and I do know of a handful who attend both programs. No members have pulled their memberships," Smith said.
She said her own daughter goes to the 509-J enrichment program four days a week, and Kids Club on Fridays.
"Katie Boyle and I work closely together on the music program, and they use one of our rooms for a gaming club," Smith said, noting Kids Club staff teach the music and Chess Club. (The Kids Club has the use of some rooms at JCMS.)
The Kids Club is also open at different times and days than the 509-J program. The Community Learning Center operates 3:30-6 p.m., Monday-Thursday on school days; while the Kids Club is open 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, and on nonschool days.
"On late-start Mondays, we open at 7 a.m. and see 45 members," Smith said.
Kids Club charges $600 for a full school-year membership and offers a package for Community Learning Center students, which gives them all Fridays and late start Mondays of the school year, and nonschool days for $240. Parents can also choose a monthly membership for $100; or bring kids for a single day at the drop-in rate of $17 per day, which includes a hot meal.
Katie Boyle agreed that they are different programs. "It was not our intention to compete with them. We do not want to put Kids Club in jeopardy at all – they are one of our partners," Boyle said.