St. Edmond Catholic School's afterschool program is growing. This year, it hosts 87 students in preschool, transitional kindergarten and in grades kindergarten through eight.
"This is just our third year," Gini Chizek, program coordinator, said. "When we first opened, we ended the year with about 40 kids. Last year, we had around 70 kids."
The TK students arrive first, at 1:30 p.m., and are joined by their older peers when school ends at 3:10 p.m., Chizek said.
"For the littler ones we work on some of the skills they work on in TK, like the alphabet and counting, fine motor skills," she said. "Once the older kids come in we have a snack with the older ones."
After their snack, the students have a homework hour to work on their school assignments and practice spelling and reading skills.
The number of older students usually reduces by half afterward, Chizek said, when they're picked up by their parents.
"They primarily have them in for that homework time," she said. "Those kids that stay beyond that, we do things like computer time, activities either in the gym or if it's nice out we'll go outside."
The program is also ready for students on Wednesdays when the school has early dismissal for staff development. On those days, Chizek said, they do special activities.
"We usually do a science day. We'll do art activities. Sometimes, we'll do cooking," she said. "We usually group them where there's older and younger together so the big ones can help the little ones."
Just as its numbers have grown, space for the program has grown, as well. The program has access to two empty classrooms for homework.
"Fifth and sixth grade really felt they were stuck in here. This year, they have a separate room so they feel they're a little bit more away from the younger kids," Chizek said. "I think that makes them feel a little bit more important."
While it is a structured learning time, the afterschool program is also fun, Chizek said.
"They enjoy the early out days because they know we're going to do a special activity on those days, before we do homework. They really look forward to that," she said. "I know last year we had a couple of kids who were really quiet and wouldn't say a whole lot and by the end of the year you could see how they opened up more."
Chizek said she has seen her students benefit from the structured time.
"I've seen a lot of growth in the kids, and I think parents have been very positive about the help they receive, especially those who are struggling in math," she said. "We have a lot of kids whose parents have requested a little extra help in math and stuff, and that's why they come."