New after-school initiative finds a home in city schools

BOOST to combine academics, art, recreation

September 01, 2004|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Fifteen to 20 Baltimore elementary and middle schools will begin offering a three-year daily after-school program combining academics, art and recreation, city officials announced yesterday.

The initiative - more than $2 million funded by city dollars and private donations - is set to begin next month. Although community organizations and churches have provided a network of after-school programs in the past five years serving about 10,000 city students, this year the groups funding the programs decided to try to shift funding to after-school programs located in schools.

The initiative, dubbed BOOST for Baltimore's Out of School Time Initiative, would be expanded to all city schools in future years if enough money is available.

Mayor Martin O'Malley announced the initiative yesterday at an Inner Harbor news conference that included a dance performance and high school band made up of students from Curtis Bay and Brooklyn. "Art and music are very important for our children achieving in reading and math," O'Malley said, adding that he believes BOOST will help children become more productive adults.

O'Malley said the city will designate about $1 million in new money raised through the recently passed tax package to BOOST. That money will be matched by more than $1 million from the Reason To Believe Enterprise, a group of foundations and businesses that have been raising money in the past two years for programs to improve life for the city's poor and most vulnerable residents.

Each of the after-school programs will be run by a different group at a school. For example, the YMCA could ask to run a program in an elementary school if the principal supports the idea. The group would hire the school's teachers to teach academics in the afternoon and supervise the recreation and arts programs, said Erin Coleman, an after-school strategist at Baltimore's Safe and Sound Campaign who is organizing BOOST with the city schools.

This year, BOOST organizers hope to serve between 800 and 1,400 students, spending about $1,500 per child. Holding the programs in schools reduces the cost because a group is not paying the rent for a facility, Coleman said, and teachers could be more readily available to provide tutoring.

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