After-school programs now in all RPS middle and elementary schools

Ronald E. Carrington | 2/7/2020, 6 a.m.
Students at Richmond’s Albert H. Hill Middle School now can sign up for free after-school programs, thanks to a partnership ...

Students at Richmond’s Albert H. Hill Middle School now can sign up for free after-school programs, thanks to a partnership with Richmond Public Schools and the nonprofit NextUp RVA.

RPS officials announced at a Jan. 30 news conference that, with the addition of the middle school at 3400 Patterson Ave., all seven middle schools and 25 elementary schools in Richmond now offer after-school programs at least twice a week in arts, science, technology, sports, life skills, self-expression and problem solving.

“It’s so much fun,” said Richmond School Board Chairwoman Linda B. Owen, a retired librarian who has visited many of the after-school programs and described students engaged in a variety of activities.

“Students are dancing, making music, cooking. That is the amazing thing to me, Ms. Owen said. “This is not after-school study hall. Students are learning, and to them it is fun.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond will manage the site, while students will be provided snacks, dinner and RPS transportation home, with the cost of the programs funded in large part by corporate and private donations, officials said.

“We announced this vision (for after-school programs to be in all schools) back in the summer of 2018,” Mayor Levar M. Stoney said at the news conference. “Here we are less than two years later and every elementary and middle school student has access to a full-service after-school program either on site or nearby. That’s real progress.

“We have created a foundation for our students not just in the classroom, but we have invested in our children outside of the classroom because we know children spend 80 percent of their time outside of school,” he said. “Out-of-school time is important for our students to continue to learn and grow. These programs are a safe place for students to be educated while their parents are still working.”

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras said the expanded after-school programs accomplish that part of the school system’s five-year strategic plan, Dreams4RPS. “This is really an example of the community coming together, including city agencies, nonprofits and corporations,” Mr. Kamras said.

“As a parent and superintendent, this is an incredible selling point for families to come to Richmond to live.”

Since NextUp’s pilot program in 2014, more than 1,600 middle students have taken advantage of the after-school programs, officials said.

“Students participating in the Next-Up’s system learn better, feel better and ultimately do better,” said Barbara Couto Sipe, NextUp’s chief executive officer and president. “Year after year we found an impact on student attendance and improvement in their behavior, as well as how they feel about their peers and their school.”

Also attending the news conference were School Board member Elizabeth “Liz” Doerr, 1st District, Albert H. Hill Middle School Principal Tashiana Ivy and Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette W. McEachin, a member of NextUp’s board of directors.