Recognizing the need for enriching activities for tens of thousands of elementary and middle school children whose parents work, the Los Angeles Unified School District has created a new branch to oversee and coordinate after-school programs.
The "Beyond the Bell" program will be headed by Assistant Supt. John Liechty, who will oversee the expansion of after-school programs that aim to teach rather than provide free day care.
"Our goal is to have a quality after-school program on every elementary and middle school campus within five years," Liechty said.
His duties will include coordinating after-school programs and evaluating them to reduce duplication; helping 11 subdistricts establish programs while working with community and business leaders to create program advisory boards; launching partnerships with universities, community agencies and foundations; and seeking financial support for such programs.
The after-school programs will focus on the hours from 3 to 6 p.m. School officials said there are an estimated 15 million latchkey children nationwide. After-school programs would provide a safe environment during the hours when authorities say juvenile crime tends to peak.
"We believe we're the first big-city school district in the nation to take this dramatic step," Supt. Roy Romer said.
LA's BEST (Better Educated Students for Tomorrow) was started in 1988 and serves 13,000 students in after-school programs in 76 district schools--30 of them in the San Fernando Valley.
Studies conducted with the UCLA Center for the Study of Evaluation found that LA's BEST students had better attendance, did better on standardized tests and became fluent in English faster than nonparticipating students.
Liechty said it was unclear how much the program would cost.