Like many schools in the area, Bloom-Vernon Elementary School has lost funding for its After School Mall program. The program was designed to give students additional hours of instruction— with unique classes that go outside the realms of English, math, or science— as well as homework help. School administration explained that they were disappointed in the loss of funds, but they weren’t prepared to lose such an instrumental program, so they decided to start hosting it on their own terms by paying out of pocket.
Principal Sandy Smith was a coordinator of the program before she took an office in administration. When the program was nearly lost, she approached Superintendent Marc Kreischer and the two worked out a way to get the program included in the school’s budget.
While it has been kept alive, it has been nearly cut in half. The program previously served 260, but now serves only 120. It also dropped from four days a week to two, and limits participants to those who are considered to be academically at risk. Also, to make the program fit in the budget, they’ve shortened the time, only opening for two two-month sessions, October and November and February and March.
Even with cuts, the program continues to serve snacks to students. Administration explained that it not only gives the students energy to get through the additional classes, but it also ensures they get a little extra nutrition.
Emily Hempill has been a Jeep for 10 years and is currently co-coordinator of the Bloom-Vernon Academic Enrichment program, alongside partner Felicia Lawson. She has been assisting in coordinating the event for four years and says it has taught her just how important her work is.
“There is such a value for kids to have the extra time to do homework, while also getting a little extra work done,” Hempill said. “Kids benefit from staying after school, especially through test scores. Not only locally, but with state tests.”
With the academic growth and the time allotted for homework help, Hempill said that the program ultimately impacts their esteem, too.
“It is a huge confidence builder for these kids to come in the next day and have their homework done.”
While Hempill explained that many cuts had to happen in order to work around funding, she believes the new format is working to accomplish what they need of it.
“It seems to be running OK. It isn’t ideal, but it is working,” Hempill said. “The success of this transition is what I love about the people who help run this program. It summarizes what this district stands for, which is the welfare of our kids. Everyone jumped on board and has been easy to work with, because they understand how important this program is.”
Smith said that finding the funding for the program seemed natural, because of the many perks, from ensuring the students get more to eat to getting them the help they need to finish homework and prepare for school the next day.
Smith claimed the program also gives the students the opportunity to better explore themselves.
“One of the perks is simply letting children try new things and develop new interests in the time they aren’t getting help with homework,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of neat classes.”
Smith explained that she loves the program, because of the deep impact it has on the students. She also said the students have had a deep impact on her, especially one boy who she filmed for a video who, when asked about the perks of academic enrichment, said, “I get to do my homework.”
“I just remember this kid. He was in trouble at school a lot, but when asked about this program, which also lets him have fun, his answer was…. Homework,” Smith said. “It just touched me. The couple days a week he had the after school program, he was just like everyone else in class; he got his homework done. That is a good feeling.”
Smith explained that once a student starts to fall behind, it can be challenging to get them caught up, since they only continue to fall further behind their classmates.
“It can be hard to do, but, let’s just say after school enrichment can give them an inch, and then summer school can give them an inch, and any extra tutoring can give them an inch,” Smith said. “After six years of an inch here and an inch there, they’ve gained that distance they once fell behind.”
Lawson and Hempill are excited to have the program this year and say that having district wide support has shown them the love that holds the Jeeps together.
“It was a great relief to have the funding awarded by the school,” Hempill said. “Honestly, it just builds respect, knowing that the administration appreciates a program with so much heart and soul. It is clear that Mrs. Smith, Mr. Kreischer, and everyone else in administration cares about what is best for kids.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.