Kearns » School is fun -- just ask 11 year-old Knighton Smith, one of 225 kids in South Kearns Elementary's new after-school program.
"It's way more fun than regular school, and there's a lot more recess," Knighton said.
The After School Extended Learning Program, funded by Title 1 stimulus money, offers two 30-minute classes and snack time Mondays through Thursdays after regular school hours. This is the first full academic year the funds were made available to Utah Title 1 schools, which serve economically disadvantaged communities.
South Kearns Elementary is part of the Granite School District, the largest recipient of Title 1 funds in the state -- about $4.5 million.
Students enrolled in the year-long program will attend one academic class in subjects including math, English and reading, and another elective, such as choir, theater and P.E.
Sixteen teachers and aides staff the program, which has about 30 to 32 students per class.
One of them, Meeria Fuhrmann, 11, says she likes the academic inspired games, such as Versa Tiles, which matches color tiles with correct math answers in order to make a pattern.
"I like it because you get to spend more time with teachers and you also get learn something every day," she said.
South Kearns Elementary Principal Marie Rose said she always toyed with the idea of offering an after-school program at the single-track, year-round school to help ensure students were retaining as much as possible.
"We're just so excited to be able to have the opportunity to do this. It's giving students more learning time and giving English language learners more time with programs in the computer lab. I think all this will have a great impact on their progress,"Rose said.
The Extended Learning classes began Aug. 10, two weeks after the school year started. While the program is free and open to all 459 students, parents were required to register their children for the limited spots.
"I like it because it keeps a busy mind busy," Zanetta Sanchez said about her son Isaac, who is enrolled in the program. "When he heard there was going to be a choir class he got so excited. He loves singing and the Jonas Brothers. He told me he's going to be famous one day."
Lizbeth Aguayo, who was waiting to pick up her 8-year-old brother, Kevin, said their parents thought the program was a great opportunity for him because he already loves books.
"One thing he likes is reading. Whenever we go to the store, he's always looking for the book section. Plus, he just really likes being at school; he's always talking about it," Aguayo said.
That kind of enthusiasm is one reason Joan Peterson, Extended Learning coordinator, feels so strongly about the program. "My heart and soul is in this school and the children," said Peterson, who has worked as an educator for nine years, four of them with South Kearns Elementary. One of her daughters attends the school.
"I know there are a lot of families want to take advantage of this extra help. What we offer isn't just coloring a page, but ... teaching students social skills, learning how to interact with each other, and continuing to give additional help with academics," Peterson said.
Students in the program will be evaluated three times during the year to gauge their response to the extra help. "I'm very excited to figure out the statistics to see how much gain the student have made from participating in the program. Up-to-date research is very important to me," Peterson said.