Youth Agencies Clamor to Stay After School: Teachers Balk at Extended Day

July 1, 1998

Some teachers and principals here are not happy about plans to expand the city’s after-school programs. That’s because the teachers have to run them.

A plan by Mayor Jim Baca to double the length of the after-school programs highlights a debate over whether such programs should be run by teachers or by specially trained youth workers.

The city now spends $1.5 million a year on after-school programs, in which about 20,000 elementary and middle school students participate. For the last seven years the programs have been offered from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at selected schools.

Mayor Baca, who ran last year on a platform of expanding the programs, has called for extending them until 6 p.m. City officials point to a 1996 survey of 12,000 Albuquerque public school children which showed that about 44 percent of middle school students are home alone after classes each day.

But a city council president and some middle school principals say they’re concerned about over-tired kids, overworked teachers, and security problems at schools.

“We’re just real concerned that the schools might be getting caught up in the city administration’s efforts to do a good thing,” says City Council President Alan Armijo, a high school teacher.

Middle school principal Julie Ambrogi worries that the city might sacrifice quality for quantity by expanding the programs. She also wonders whether teachers who supervise these programs will have enough energy when they return to their classrooms the following morning. “The teachers have lives and families, too,” she says.

After-school advocates generally don’t favor using teachers to run the programs. “We don’t think teachers should be used in that way,” says Michelle Seligson, executive director of the National Council on Out-Of-School Time. “It’s a mistake to do that,” she said, because the teachers have already put in a full day of work, and because quality after-school programs must be distinct from regular school work and should be run by staffers who have been trained specifically for such programs.

Harold Vann, city coordinator for youth initiatives, says principals are also concerned about school security. “It gets dark at 5 p.m. in the winter,” he says. “It’s a question of managing the facilities safely.”

But Vann also notes that a recent city survey showed that children, parents and school counselors feel that the after-school programs can boost students’ self-esteem and school work, and help them steer clear of gangs and drugs.

“Scaling up is always an issue,” Vann says. “The program is going well, but now we have to plan how to change it.” Mayor Baca pledges to work with the schools, community groups and parents to extend the hours.

Whatever they work out, more after-school help is on the way. Last month the U.S. Department of Education gave the Albuquerque public schools a $1.38 million grant for after-school programs that include a summer learning center to focus on reading, writing, computer skills and recreation. The grant was part of the DOE’s $40 million 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

Traver, Nancy. "Youth Agencies Clamor to Stay After School: Teachers Balk at Extended Day." Youth Today, July/August 1998, p. 26.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.