After-school program to open for middle-schoolers after delay

OLYMPIA – A new after-school program run by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County begins Monday at Jefferson Middle School, replacing one of four city-operated programs the city shuttered this year because of budget cuts.

“There’s been a lot of positive interest,” said Joe Ingoglia, chief executive officer of the local Boys & Girls Clubs.

The program had been set to start on the first day of school, Sept. 9, but Ingoglia said the organization needed a little more time. Although the program is based at Jefferson, 2200 Conger Ave. N.W., it’s open to middle-schoolers from throughout Olympia.

Kelly Hanson, the director of the new program, said 53 students have signed up from Jefferson, Marshall and Reeves middle schools – the vast majority from Jefferson. Right now, there’s no transportation provided to children from other schools, but the clubs are working on that.

She said there were more slots available as of Wednesday for Reeves and Marshall students, and there is a waiting list for Jefferson students.

Ingoglia said his group is working with the School District to provide transportation to the program from nearby Marshall and intends to use its van to shuttle children from the other middle schools, depending on interest.

The program will operate from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and costs $25 per child, per year.

Aside from homework help, the club is forming a variety of clubs – for sports, photography and health habits with cooking, among others.

The organization had to scramble to put a program together. Olympia City Manager Steve Hall announced in May that the after-school programs would be cut when classes let out in June, part of $2.6 million in budget reductions.

The previous city-run programs, at Washington, Jefferson, Reeves and Marshall middle schools, were started more than a decade ago to offer supervision for children at a time when they are most likely to get in trouble. Homework help, sports and other activities were staples of the programs. About 70 to 80 children per day used the programs, the city’s Parks Department has said, although more are enrolled.

The local Boys & Girls Clubs went on a fundraising blitz to get the money to start the program.

The clubs also are asking the Olympia City Council for a $25,000 donation, and leaders hope to hear back from them this month.

The local clubs already run after-school programs in Lacey, Tumwater and Rochester, which the club reports has an average of 450 children.

Club leaders also hope to open a program at Garfield Elementary in Olympia, but Ingoglia said that’s likely about four years away.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869