School, churches planning program

BROADALBIN – The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District and local churches are working together to provide an after-school program for sixth-graders.

The Broadalbin United Methodist Church and the First Presbyterian Church of Broadalbin are partnering with the district to offer the program on Tuesdays beginning April 9.

The program will be free to the school and students who use the services.

“Our hope is to provide a safe and welcoming place for students to gather after school under the supervision of our volunteers,” the Rev. Bill Delia of the United Methodist Church said.

The program will be loosely structured but will include an after-school snack, a time and place to work on homework with informal help, time for board games, reading, arts and crafts, or listening to personal music players (with headphones).

The program is funded by contributions and donations from both churches, Delia said.

District Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said the churches approached him about the idea to provide a service to the district and community by giving students a place to go when school is over.

“They really didn’t know what they were looking for,” Tomlinson said. “They knew they wanted to make a difference in the community and knew the school district couldn’t cross the line into religion and that was not their desire. But they wanted to know how they could make a difference for a population of students at the school.”

He said he told them that the district has received a number of phone calls from parents regarding sixth-grade students who are unable to participate in the existing after-school program the district provides once they are done with fifth grade.

“We didn’t offer a sixth-grade after-school program and a lot of parents still felt their kids were young enough that they couldn’t be home alone,” Tomlinson said.

He said the church is taking all of the measures that the district does for its after-school programming including thorough background checks and enrollment requirements.

Tomlinson said the district will provide no financial support to the program, but will provide transportation to the program and communication support.

The district already provides a daily after-school program for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

In order for students to be part of the after-school program they will need to register at least one week in advance.

The program will be held in the two churches, but is open to all children regardless of religious belief or affiliation.

However, since the church buildings are not handicapped-accessible students with special needs cannot be accommodated.

The children will be transported to the after-school program at the churches by the school district buses but parents must provide pick-up transportation.

The students will be going to the First Presbyterian Church from September through January and the United Methodist Church from February through June. However, volunteers from both churches will be working together at each location.

Delia said the churches decided to test the waters by opening the program to sixth-graders one day a week to see how it would be received by the community and students. However, if all things go well he said the churches could look to expand the program in the future.

“Depending on the response from the kids and how it works out we will consider expanding it depending on their response and if we can come up with the resources,” Delia said. “We thought we would start small and kind of feel our way along and see where God leads us in terms of providing a bigger program in the future.”

He said the biggest resource needed isn’t actually money but rather volunteers willing to participate in the program to supervise the children.

“The response has been great and both churches are really enthused about it,” Delia said. “The volunteers have been meeting every couple of weeks over the last two months getting the program ready.”

He said the volunteers right now are of all ages and if anyone is interested in possibly volunteering to help out can call the Broadalbin United Methodist Church at 883-5247 or the First Presbyterian Church of Broadalbin at 883-8086.

Delia said the churches will consider expanding the program by either the numbers of days or changing the age limitations if not many sixth graders participate in the program.

The churches have been able to raise approximately $5,000 to help get the program started and provide the resources and snacks that will be available to the students, Delia said.

“This is something we expect to grow,” Rev. Linda Martin of the First Presbyterian Church of Broadalbin said. “Once more people see how it operates, hopefully, they will be a part of it.”