Before and After School Programs

Before and After School Programs fill an important need for Hughson students, parents
Posted on 10/04/2019
After School Program students doing art

On any given day, about 350 kindergarten through eighth-graders participate in Hughson Unified’s Before and After School Programs. Some arrive as early as 6:30 in the morning. Some stay as late as 6 o’clock at night.


The programs – which are free for the bulk of the families -- provide a safe and familiar environment for children whose parents otherwise would have to scramble to find child care early and/or late in the day. Hughson is one of the few districts in Stanislaus County offering such a service.


Just as important, the programs’ structure compliments what occurs during the day in the classroom. There are times to eat and play, but there also is space set aside to attend to homework assignments and participate in other fun activities. There even are occasional field trips after school or on the weekend.


This year, for the first time, the district moved to a lottery system to determine which families could enroll their children for free. That replaced the former first-come, first-served arrangement, which inspired some parents to camp overnight outside the school offices before sign-ups happened in the spring.


“There was a little grumbling, but I think most parents think this is a fairer way,” said Janet Oliver, the district’s Director of After School Programs. “Not all parents could or even wanted to spend the night on the sidewalk.”


The lottery took about an hour in March, Oliver said. Families that have multiple children whose tickets were drawn were enrolled at each campus their children attend (Hughson Elementary, Fox Road Elementary or Ross Middle School).


Though free slots in the program are capped at each site, families who weren’t chosen still have the option to pay a small fee to have their children participate. Costs range from $35 for every 10 days at the Before School Program at Hughson Elementary to $150 a month for the After School Program.


“We understand the fee is a bigger deal for some families than others, but we think the cost per day is still very reasonable,” said Carrie Duckart, the district’s Assistant Superintendent.


Most parents likely recognize there is plenty to value in the programs.


The Before School Program – offered only at K-3 Hughson Elementary – caters to parents who need to drop off their youngsters before school starts at 8 a.m. Some are there when the doors open at 6:30. On average, there are about 40 students a day, Oliver said.


“There’s a lot of separation anxiety,” she said. “It’s still dark at 6:30, so some of them still are sleepy. We feed them and help them wake up a bit.”


In addition to breakfast, a typical morning may include coloring, stories or even a short movie.


“A lot of it is getting them ready for school,” Oliver said.


Things are much busier after school at all three sites. Hughson Elementary averages about 180 students a day in its After School Program, Fox Road has about 90 and Ross about 70.


Again, the program includes a meal – referred to as supper, even though it’s served about 3 p.m., right after school is out.


“The first thing we do is feed them,” Oliver said. “The kids love it. Some of them haven’t eaten since 11 a.m., so they’re hungry.”


After that is time for play outside. There are structured activities like soccer, basketball and football, but also space just to relax. “We let them get the wiggles out,” Oliver said with a smile.


At 3:15, academic hour begins. Students are expected to tackle their homework, with paraeducators available to help as necessary. Oliver’s 30-person staff – many of them college students studying to become teachers -- includes one adult for every 20 students.


“Parents love the homework support, especially when Common Core came and parents weren’t always sure how to help their kiddos,” Oliver said.


At 4:15, enrichment hour starts. There are fun, age-appropriate lessons and clubs built on themes like science, photography, performing arts and sports. There was even a smoothie club, where students learned about the fruits before they blended them into a drink.


By 5 p.m., about half of the students have been picked up, but Oliver said some stay as late as 6 until their parents get off work.


During the school year, there are various field trips planned. Some happen on the weekend. Past trips have been to the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, the zoo and also the Train Museum in Sacramento, and Dell’ Osso Family Farm in Manteca to see pumpkins.


Oliver has worked in the programs for 11 years and been the director for the past six years. Her responsibilities don’t end when school lets out for summer. There is a four-week program in June for K-8 students that runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is separate from summer school. Most years, it attracts about 200 youngsters. The program is funded by grants and free for students in grades K-5. The fee is $180 for middle school students.


Oliver said the summer program is built around themes – jungles, savannas, Antarctica, oceans, the Middle Ages. Fun activities and lessons reflect those themes and often include field trips to places like the Monterey Aquarium, the Modesto Junior College planetarium, Columbia State Park and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. There also are onsite presentations like when a medieval knight in a full suit of armor dazzled students.


More information on the After School Program is available on the district website. Parents also can reach Oliver directly at 883-4412 or The site coordinators for each campus on their contact information also is available on the website.
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