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After-school program hikes fee

Superior School District is offering a smaller version of its After School Program at Northern Lights Elementary School. Students gathered in the Northern Lights cafetorium Wednesday afternoon for a snack before heading off to work on reading, ma...

Superior School District is offering a smaller version of its After School Program at Northern Lights Elementary School.

Students gathered in the Northern Lights cafetorium Wednesday afternoon for a snack before heading off to work on reading, math and recreation just as students have been doing at the school for the past several years.

This year, however, the students' parents are paying more for the privilege.

The district ended its low-cost After School Program in spring after it was unable to find funding for it outside of the district.

The After School Program served about 500 students at Superior Middle School and Northern Lights, Lake Superior and Bryant elementary schools. The program has been offered in the district in some form for the past seven years.

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The former program was free for children on free and reduced lunch, and $100 per year for those who weren't eligible for the lunch programs.

About 16 students are enrolled at the new Northern Lights program. The cost is $100 per month for every child. The entire program is fee funded.

It's a considerable increase in price, but the staff is trying to make it a quality program while keeping the fees as low as possible, said Nicky Wilson, coordinator of family services and district grant writer.

The program is similar to the one offered in past years. It is education-based and runs Monday-Thursday. A snack is provided.

Students don't work on homework during the program, but they do work on math, reading, technology, cooking and recreation, said Sandy Johnson, an after school teacher.

The program is similar to its predecessor in its education base, but the children are not split into age specific groups. All the kids from kindergartners to fifth grade are together for the whole program because separating them is cost prohibitive, Wilson said.

Staff from the Family Resource Center polled parents in July to learn whether they'd be interested in enrolling their child in a more costly option. The greatest interest was in the Northern Lights Elementary School area, Wilson said.

"I wanted to offer it not only because it's great for kids, but it's a service to families," Wilson said.

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The After School Program is still excepting enrollment, but payment is required before students can participate.

The program provides transportation for students to Northern Lights from Cooper Elementary School and Cathedral School. Parents with students at any other schools would need to find transportation for their children to participate in the program if they wanted their kids to participate.

Parents must pick up their children from the program, there is no transportation home and children won't be released to walk, said Cheryl Thompson, of the Family Resource Center.

Some families who are interested in enrolling children in the program but cannot afford the fee may qualify for Wisconsin Works W-2 child care assistance, Thompson said.

Inquires about eligibility can be made with the Wisconsin Job Center-Superior, she said.

In spring parents, students and administrators wrote state and federal representatives to gain earmarked dollars for the district's former After School Program at a federal level. In June, the district learned those efforts failed for this school year.

In the past, Superior School District received a 21st Centuries Community Learning Centers grant from the Department of Public Instruction, which provided much of the funding for the After School Program. That grant was not continued.

The district plans to reapply for funding in spring for the 2008-2009 school year, Wilson said.

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"In the meantime I thought (the Northern Lights program) would fill the gap for families that really need it," she said.

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