Educators looking for ways to increase after-school programs

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A growing number of Utah families want options to help their children use time outside of school more productively. The subject was the focus of a statewide conference Tuesday on after-school programs.

Many Salt Lake City students are spending the lazy days of summer in a reading enrichment program. North Star Elementary School had to add extra slots, and many kids are on a waiting list.

We really need to get them involved in active, healthy things; get them involved in reading more; having them do activities that they can learn from.

–Marsha Prantil, Utah Afterschool Network

The demand here supports new research by the Afterschool Alliance, which shows while only 16 percent of Utah families take part in summer programs, 55 percent would if they could.

"With all the research we have on the summer slip-back, we want to make sure that our young people are reading during the summer; that they're having a chance to practice their academic skills in a variety of different ways," said Jane Quinn, with the National Center for Community Schools. [CLICK HERE to read more on how after-school programs are making a positive difference].

That's why school and community leaders from Park City, Ogden, Salt Lake and Provo came together. They want to develop and improve programs during the summer, and those before and after school, to bridge the gap when most parents are working.

"We really need to get them involved in active, healthy things; get them involved in reading more; having them do activities that they can learn from," said Marsha Prantil, with the Utah Afterschool Network.

Each team will spend the year working to meet the needs of their own communities. The reality, organizers say, is that kids can't compete or succeed in today's economy if they're wasting hours every day. After-school programs provide safer, more productive options for many families.

"We need to keep expanding children's learning opportunities and make the best use of a resource that is democratically distributed, and that is the resource of time," Quinn said.

Organizers are also working to get lawmakers to support and fund more after-school programs.


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