Beyond the Bell

ST. JOHNSVILLE – For some students, the final bell doesn’t signal the end of the school day at the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville school district.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m., dozens of students are staying after school to get some extra instruction.

The program, called Beyond the Bell, is open to high school, middle school and elementary school students. It started at the high school in December, and since then, the other schools have been participating in the program.

Some students are required to attend the program, while others have the option of showing up for extra help.

A number of the district’s teachers are staying after school for the program to provide instruction.

OESJ High School Principal Ronald Smith said Beyond the Bell offers students instruction in two blocks of 40 minutes each.

Smith, who helped develop the program, said he wanted it to be more than just an optional, after-school study hall.

“We basically take a look at all of our students and we put them at certain levels, as far as their grade-point averages, what they’re passing, what they’re failing,” Smith said.

Students who are failing or close to failing are the primary users of the program. Students are brought in if they missed homework or need help, Smith said. Teachers then sign up a student for a session at the program, and the student is sent to a classroom for help.

“Maybe they missed an assignment, maybe they are struggling,” Smith said of the students.

But Smith said the program isn’t just for students who struggle. Some children benefit from the enrichment part of the program, participating in various activities after school. Others seek extra help in their subjects.

On Thursday, roughly 35 youths participated in the program, learning subjects such as math, English, social studies and science.

“I didn’t want the program to be a glorified study hall,” Smith said. “We got together as a team and the teachers that were involved in this, and this was certainly what we were looking at.”

Smith said the program is being funded with money set aside in the budget.

Anna Goderie, an English teacher at the school, helped more than a dozen students in her room Thursday during the program.

“It has been a good program. It has been helpful for the students who just need that extra time with a teacher,” Goderie said.

Matt Battisti, a math teacher at OESJ High School, said he’s seen seven or eight students come to his math class for the program, depending on the day.

“Students are frustrated initially [with their work],” Battisti said. “Whenever they leave, they feel better about what they are working on. They have confidence.”

Scott Mosher, a ninth-grader, said he’s attended the program for help with homework. He said he’s seen an improvement in his grades in math, English and social studies.

Smith said it is too early to tell how much the program has helped students with their grades.

When he first presented the idea to the Board of Education in December, the first marking period showed 39 percent of the students were on an honor roll, but many students were in need of help.

The Beyond the Bell program now is offered at the high school, middle school and D.H. Robbins Elementary School.