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Linden students don’t mind staying after school

Last month, Linden City Schools were given a $200,000 grant from the state board of education to establish an after school program. Only two short weeks into that program teachers and volunteers say the results are astonishing. Thursday night, Linden Elementary School hosted children and parents for a chili dinner to show how well the program has done.

Through the program, there are several programs such as karate, arts and crafts and games. However, Linden Elementary School principal Wanda Fisher said they always keep the focus close to academics.

“Of course tutoring and homework help has been a big focus,” Fisher said. “We have also started a 4-H Club and computer classes. We also have an official art teacher who will start with us in January.”

Most days, they have more than their fair share of students to offer their programs to. Program Supervisor Joe Johnson said the enrollment has exceeded expectations, but the programs are in place to entertain them.

“We have had about 180 students enroll in the program,” Johnson said. “Every day we have a different schedule and we try to have something the kids will enjoy.”

The program is open to students from kindergarten to eighth grade from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. Because of their enrollment, Fisher said, sometimes it is difficult to tell when school ends and the program begins.

“If you look at the halls after school, it looks like school is still in session,” Fisher said. “It has been absolutely incredible. The excitement of the children and parents has been unbelievable.”

When the idea for the program became a reality, there was little doubt it would be a huge success. However, Fisher said, they were surprised by how quickly everyone jumped on board.

“I never expected this,” Fisher said. “The kids are excited and the volunteers are excited. This has really been a lot of fun.”

At one time, staying after school meant bad news for students. Now, staying after school is fun. Johnson said he was surprised how many people were ready to stand behind an after school program in Linden.

“I was stunned so many kids wanted to come to school after school,” Johnson said. “We have gotten a great response from the students and businesses. We have gotten a lot of support.”

Because of the positive tone of the project, Fisher said, volunteers were not hard to find.

Denise Thomas, reading specialist, said she was more than happy to help out because it gives the children a leg up.

“I think the kids are gaining a lot,” Thomas said. “It gives them a chance to mix learning and fun.”

Students’ families have also stepped forward, Fisher said, which has also made an enormous difference.

“When you have parents in the schools you can’t lose,” Fisher said. “It’s as simple as that.”

New programs are on the horizon, Fisher said. Soon, they plan to offer youth basketball and soccer.