As the first day of school approaches, parents are searching for quality afterschool programs for their children to keep them learning and engaged after the school day ends. Harris County offers a wide variety of options for afterschool care ranging from tutoring and sports activities to comprehensive afterschool programs.
Lisa Thompson-Caruthers, director of Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids), offers five tips to help families find a program that meets their needs:
- Safety and Emergency Procedures: Ask about the safety and emergency procedures in place. The program should be able to provide answers about any type of situation.
- Staff-to-Student Ratio: The staff-to-student ratio and maximum group size of an afterschool program can determine how much individual attention and supervision a child receives.
- Staff Training: When searching for an afterschool program, ask about staff training and if they regularly attend professional development workshops. Research shows that well-trained staff interact better with students.
- Activities that Promote Learning: Children are more likely to develop skills if the program offers a variety of academic and recreational classes. Look for afterschool programs that participate in activities that promote learning.
- Student Progress: Ask how the program assesses student progress to stay informed.
CASE for Kids provides resources, trainings and funding for afterschool programs, serving approximately 13,000 students in grades pre-k through 12 in afterschool programs in schools, child care facilities and community centers throughout Harris County.
When families think about afterschool programs, many focus on programs specifically for elementary students while their parents are working. Caruthers emphasizes the importance of keeping students in middle and high school engaged in meaningful activities as well.
This year, a joint project between CASE for Kids and the Houston Urban Debate League (HUDL) will serve 300 high school students in afterschool programs at 20 schools in Harris County. The program, CASE Debates, will provide three in-depth seminars for youth and coaches along with three debate tournaments throughout the school year.
“We want to help families find a program that supplements the education students receive during the school day and extends that learning and excitement into afterschool programs,” said Thompson-Caruthers.
For more information on CASE for Kids and afterschool resources, visit www.afterschoolzone.org.
About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE provides special education, therapy services, early education, adult education and after-school programming. Services are funded by government grants, fees and a local property tax rate of $.0052. For every dollar in local property tax collected, HCDE provides $4.40 in services to the 25 Harris County school districts. HCDE also operates four campuses for students with profound special education needs and adjudicated youth who require a low student-teacher ratio and highly structured environment. One-hundred percent of students served on HCDE campuses are at-risk. The organization is governed by an elected board of seven trustees and has 1,060 employees and 33 facilities, including 15 Head Start centers. More info at www.hcde-texas.org.