PUTNEY—Amelia Struthers wants people to know that “learning happens everywhere, and it happens all the time.”
“I’m concerned that people will see us on the playground and say, ‘They’re just playing,’” says Struthers, site coordinator for Putney’s longstanding OASIS (Open After School In School) program.
Working parents often need safe after-school programs, and research also affirms such programs’ positive educational impact.
Struthers notes, “the hours of 3 to 6 p.m. are studied as the most vulnerable hours for children between 8 and 15. That’s when we’re in operation.”
Program models vary widely around Windham County, engaging recreation departments, the YMCA, local family services, and schools, using funding by federal grants administered at the state level.
In every case, a different group of stakeholders and resources seems to develop a somewhat different model, with the common theme being the school.
One significant resource for many existing programs is the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, supporting after-school programs throughout the United States — an investment totaling more than $1 billion.
Struthers explains that former Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords “created federal funding for 21st Century grants as part of the Education Committee, stating that ‘We need to see the lights on at school.’”
At the Vermont Dept. of Education, Emanuel Betz, the program’s director, says the focus “extends broadly to anytime outside of the school day.”
Betz, who sees himself as “a resource and supporter of that period of time,” says that the funds support programs for students in kindergarten through grade 12 and for their parents.
“It’s an investment in kids at a local level,” he says.
Funding is for “needy communities, who have at least 40 percent or higher free and reduced lunch.”
The program pays for 48 percent; the districts pay the balance. Across the state, districts have raised $10.6 million for the programs.
“Folks have done a great job paying real dollars,” Betz says. “Some communities contribute taxes directly.”
Jason Touchette, a local father, says that OASIS “gives me peace of mind. I totally rely on the program for my job and for Logan to have a safe place to be. She wants to be there.”
Dena Gartenstein-Moses adds, “I could talk at length about how amazing the Putney after-school program is.”
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