H-SANTA MARIA

Nov 15, 2010 8:56 PM by Ariel Wesler

Families see long waiting list for local after school program

A record number of families in the Santa Maria Bonita School District are finding themselves on the waiting list for the after school program. The district runs a free after school program called ASES. It stands for After School Education and Safety. The program has seen its waiting list almost double in the last year.

Nearly 1100 students in the Santa Maria Bonita School District participate in its after school program.

"We get to play dodgeball. Sometimes we get to play on the playground, and we get to play kickball," said 1st Grader Kale King.

But this year, around 400 kids are waiting to join the program. The coordinator says this is the first year she's seen a waiting list at all 18 elementary schools. The longest is at Taylor Elementary.

"We're funded for a certain number of students or a certain amount, which kind of dictates how many students we can have in a program," said Patty Schwarzkopf, the program coordinator.

While funding for the program has remained constant since it began in 2007, recent cuts to low income child care have forced more parents toward after school programs.

The cut in CalWorks have had an impact on the numbers this year, but historically, with the economy as it is, both parents have to work," Schwarzkopf said.

Some schools have as many as 70 families hoping for a spot--a safe place where kids can socialize,

"It's fun because you get along and you make new friends every year," said 5th Grader Scheyla Zarate.

Learn.

"I get my homework done everyday because I focus and when I need help, I raise my hand and they come and help me," said 5th Grader Nia Shanelle-Nixon.

And stay out of trouble.

Enrollment for the ASES program operates on a first come first serve basis, but it does try to accomodate at risk youth.

75 percent of the spots are reserved for existing families, 15 percent come from the waiting list, and 10 percent are new families to the district.

Some families can also turn to the Boys and Girls Club for free after school activities.

Schwarzkopf says Taylor, Liberty, and Ontiveros Elementary have the longest waiting lists in the district.

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