School Officials Hope to Revive After-School Program for Middle School

Interim Superintendent Herb Levine says final decision will be announced soon whether local Boys & Girls Club chapter will reopen or district will pursue another option.

Peabody school officials are searching for funding in an effort to help resurrect an after school program at , a local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem.

Earlier in November, school officials learned from the club that the local chapter was being shut down due to lack of funds. The Salem News reported on Nov. 17 that the Peabody chapter had refunded the $10 membership fee to middle school students and alerted parents that the program would not be returning for a fifth year.

The popular program was brought to Peabody in 2007 by Higgins teacher Greg Passeri, who used to work at the Boys & Girls Club.

School officials are now seeking to find the necessary funds to either revive the Boys & Girls Club chapter or possibly run a similar after-school program internally for up to 170 middle school students, according to Interim Superintendent Herb Levine.

Levine said in a phone interview earlier this week that a couple donors have stepped forward, indicating interest in funding such a program. The final decision will be announced early next week.

Levine, along with School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne, Higgins Principal Todd Bucey and Passeri met this week to lay out the options.

Levine said there are three options being considered right now:

  1. Seek out donors and reinstitute the Higgins Boys & Girls Club.
  2. Run the program internally.
  3. Have For Kids Only [FKO] Afterschool Executive Director Debbie Kneeland create a program for middle school kids who are income eligible.

For Kids Only currently operates in schools in Peabody, Salem, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston and Everett to provide year-round programming for after-school, school vacation and summer sessions generally for elementary-age students. In Peabody, FKO runs programs in all but two of Peabody’s elementary schools: the South and West schools.

“FKO is a non-profit, but there is a charge that would be a bit more than the Boys & Girls Club, although they do receive vouchers from the state for those who qualify,” said Levine.

Levine noted that since the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club closed, many of those students have been heading to the public library instead after school, which he thought was a positive sign.

“We are still massaging the options and will hope to reopen something in January 2012,” said Levine.

The Salem News reported that the Higgins club started off with about 35 members in 2007, but grew to 170 students by its third year and saw 120 of them last year coming for homework help, followed by sports and other activities each afternoon after school ended.

The parent organization provided much of the funding for the Peabody chapter -- staff and materials cost $35,000-$40,000 per year -- but with donations and grant money down significantly for the organization as a whole while membership also rose significantly in Salem, it became untenable to keep the Higgins club running, the Salem News reported. Passeri also said it had been difficult to secure individual donations for the Peabody program.

For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem, go to www.bgcgs.org.


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