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Getting off to a good (late) start: Junior high students have fun Ñ and supervision Ñ on Wednesday mornings

By October 19, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

Late-start Wednesdays in Davis secondary schools have presented a conundrum for working parents over the years: What to do with junior high school students on days when school doesnÕt start until 9:30 a.m. or later?

Options have included dropping students off on campus early, leaving kids home alone with the expectation theyÕd get themselves off to school on time, or letting them head off to one of the popular Wednesday morning gathering places Ñ think Nugget Market in East Davis, where hundreds of junior high school kids have been known to gather sans supervision before school.

But since last year, the city of Davis has offered another option: supervised fun and games on junior high school campuses beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesdays.

ÒItÕs a safe place to hang out and have fun,Ó said Chris Peske, who runs the city teen programs at Holmes Junior High School. ÒTheyÕre not loitering outside of Nugget, their parents know where they are and itÕs completely free.Ó

At Holmes, Peske and another city recreation leader, Nick Gallaudet, offer both indoor and outdoor activities that have been serving about 30 students each week. ItÕs a drop-in program open to all Holmes students.

ÒWe have sports like dodgeball and basketball outside,Ó Peske said. ÒWe also have two Nintendo WiiÕs, chess games, board games and card games inside.Ó

Some kids spend their time catching up on homework, he said, or studying for a test, Òand I do my best to help with that.Ó

PeskeÕs even been known to turn up with doughnuts or bagels for the kids.

Over at Harper Junior High, Kayla Yokoyama has been involved in the Wednesday morning activities since last year.

ÒWe get from 30 to 75 kids every Wednesday,Ó she said. ÒIt gets really packed as it gets closer to school starting.Ó

Kids play indoor soccer or basketball in the gym, she said, and enjoy board games, arts and crafts and video games in the multipurpose room.

ÒSome kids are obsessed with chess and theyÕll sit there for an hour or an hour and a half playing chess with a huge group of kids watching,Ó she said. ÒWe also have foosball, ping-pong and other activities.Ó

All of the activities are supervised by Yokoyama and other adults, and according to Yokoyama, the Harper staff is grateful for their presence.

ÒThey really appreciate having us there supervising these kids,Ó she said, Òkids who would maybe be hanging out downtown or at the Nugget shopping center, or at home alone. TheyÕre in a safe place, having a lot of fun, so we get a lot of great feedback from the staff here.Ó

The feedback from students has been positive, too, she said.

ÒThe kids would be really sad if we didnÕt have this, so as long as they want it, weÕll provide it.Ó

In the early days of the Wednesday morning programs, both school sites saw significantly more boys attending than girls, but the gender balance has been evening out, as has the age range of students, with kids from all three grades participating, Peske and Yokoyama said.

Peske adds that he expects the total number of kids participating to increase as the weather cools and kids need a warm, indoor hang-out spot.

DavisÕ third junior high school Ñ Emerson Junior High Ñ does not currently offer a Wednesday morning drop-in program, for a very simple reason:

ÒEmerson has not shown a need for a late-start program,Ó said city teen activity specialist Moret Chavez. ÒEmerson teens do not appear to be arriving to school early or needing a program for late start.Ó

But teen activity specialists from Emerson as well as the other junior highs will be coordinating activities this week during articulation day on Thursday, when all Davis secondary school students will be dismissed early.

For the junior high kids, itÕs Day on the Green in Central Park.

ÒWeÕll be having a water slip-n-slide, inflatable boxing, food vendors and live bands,Ó Chavez said.

The fun starts right after kids get out of school at 12:30.

Ñ Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at (530) 747-8051 or [email protected] Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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