Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
It may be summertime, but it’s never too early to consider who will be watching the kids come September when school is back in session. For now, camps are in abundance, college and high school-age sitters are home, and there are plenty of family and friends to fill in the gaps when parents are at work. But, when school starts, which is all too soon, what are your plans between the critical hours of 3 and 6 p.m., once the bell rings.
In some area schools, kindergarten is not much different then preschool program hours, with kids getting out of school as early as 11:30 a.m. The remaining school-age population typically is dismissed around the 3 p.m. timeframe, leaving some much needed hours for coverage before parents get home from work. So just who will be responsible for watching the kids during this crucial time frame and what activities might you engage the kiddos in?
First, the facts when it comes to school age kids being left to their own devices after school. According to the New Hampshire after School Alliance not all families have a plan when it comes to afternoon hours during the school year. Approximately 6 percent of elementary school children are home alone, 35 percent of middle school children, and 63 percent of high school children are responsible for self care. And, according to “America After 3 p.m.,” a total of 15 million kids in the U.S. are unsupervised after school. The percentages are important to note, because research indicates the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., are when children are most likely to engage in risky behavior including drugs and crime.
While it would be nice if all parents could be home right after school, many community programs understand this just isn’t the case, and offer structured programs with the kids needs in mind. New Hampshire has many affordable activities such as after school and community driven programs.
Jen Carter, a former teacher, and the School Age Care Coordinator with the Southern District YMCA in Kingston, said they will have 14 “School’s Out,” (SAFE in Stratham) programs running in the fall, up from 12 last year. New to the program this year will be Hampton Falls and Pollard Elementary in Plaistow. The program offers flexible hours for drop off and pick up and even accommodates vacation weeks and coverage for early dismissal times as well.
The Schools Out program before school hours are 6:45/7 a.m. until the start of school day. While the afternoon schedule runs from dismissal until 6 p.m. there is a student-counselor ratio of 10 to 1, and the kindergarten group has their own set of counselors because they require some extra attention.
According to Carter, all site directors are certified by the state and have to meet educational requirements to obtain the position. As for costs, the program is not only coordinated with the kids needs in mind, but also very affordable. Costs are $227 per month/$180 for each additional child. Before and after school care is $281/$232. The overall expense comes to less than $4 per hour. Families may also apply for state funding through www.dhhs.nh.gov, or for scholarships directly with the YMCA. Adjusted schedules can also be planned if you do not need care all week.
As for activities, Carter explained there is much for the kids to look forward to. “In terms of our programs, we see the kids really enjoy being there,” she said. “Especially when the parents come to pick up the kids, and they don’t want to leave.”
The snacks and breakfast items are included the program cost and follow strict guidelines for portion and health requirements. As for special activities during vacation weeks, the kids have enjoyed field trips such as the Boston Aquarium, the Red Sox Fenway Tour, Estuary trips, and even plays. On some occasions, the schools have even had indoor beach parties, or special speaking guests. There is also time for homework, and relaxation. There is still time to sign up for the “School’s Out,” program; go to www.ymcacamplincoln.org for registration.
Be sure to check in with your town recreation department and libraries, as some areas have school bus stops at these locations with sponsored activities as well. Even some after-school sports programs have drop offs such as New Hampshire Academy of Artistic Gymnastics.
There is also babysitting which is a great option for many families. If you are looking for a sitter, try area college job boards such as the University of New Hampshire. One mom found her sitter through this site; the sitter ended up being a nursing student with her own car for transport. Wondering what to pay a sitter? Go to www.sittercity.com and enter your area code and sitter details to determine what babysitters are being paid in your area.
There are many options when it comes to after school care, but it’s important to plan ahead so the kids know what to expect, and you are not left figuring out what you are going to do.
Bridgette Springer is a freelance writer juggling motherhood in Stratham. She is a contributor to regional newspapers, magazines, and marketing projects. Bridgette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated by Morgen Thiboult Jul 29, 2011.