Less money, fewer kids

Enrollment in Butler’s Learning After School Time program, or BLAST!, has decreased, according to Lyndsey Steck, program director.

The program in May reached the end of its 21st Century Learning Center Grant funding, which covered 75 percent of its costs. To continue, BLAST! announced it had to charge students this year for the after-school service.

“It’s a sliding scale fee based on free and reduced lunch,” Steck said. “Free lunch, it’s $20 a month; reduced lunch, it’s $50 a month; and full-pay lunch, it’s $100 a month. And there is a discount for multiple kids in the family.”

The new fee has had an impact on enrollment in the program.

“We have 70 kids enrolled right now. It’s down from last year,” Steck said. “We had 120 enrolled last year.”

The program will be able to continue, though, Steck said, and will be unchanged from previous years.

“We’re going to work the same way we have in the past,” she said. “It’s going to continue to be academic-based, with the power hour for homework, math and reading, and after that we have enrichment activities.”

BLAST! is a structured learning time, Steck said, emphasizing study.

“The first hour they do homework, math and reading, and then enrichment activities,” she said. “Sometimes we have reading programs they participate in on the computer. They also participate in recreation activities as well, to teach them healthy living. And we have a lot of community partnerships that come in and work with the kids on nutrition and fitness.”

With a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grant, BLAST! will be able to provide its students with a Camp-in-a-Can kit.

“It’s science activities where the kids will be experimenting with animals,” Steck said. “The one we chose for them this year is based on insects. And at the end we’ll have a visit from Blank Park Zoo with live animals.”

Reading With Sophie will continue this year, as well, Steck said. The program has its lower reading level elementary students develop those skills by reading to a dog.

After a year as program director, Steck has seen how BLAST! has benefited its students academically, she said.

“It makes them more responsible in completing their homework and it also allows for the extra math and reading for the kids who struggle in those areas,” she said.

BLAST! begins Sept. 3 and concludes May 16. For more information, contact Steck, BLAST! program director, at Butler Elementary School, 574-5882.