BREC, schools expand program

BREC, working with the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, is expanding a small after-school program to include 11 schools starting Monday and officials hope to make the program parishwide this fall.

The Youth 360 program, the new name for the after-school venture, is aimed at children aged 6 to 12 and will operate like BREC after-school programs that already exist at Antioch Park, Jackson Park, Church Street Park and Plank Road Park. Antioch serves students at Shenandoah Elementary in Baton Rouge and the other three parks serve students in Central and Zachary.

Youth 360 will bring after-school camps to nine more BREC parks, according to a partnership agreement between BREC and the school system.

The expanded program starts Monday and concludes at the end of the second semester of the 2012-13 school year in mid-May.

The camps cost families $48 per month. The program focuses on recreational and character development activities, providing participants with a healthy snack along the way, but there is a little academics mixed in.

“It is a recreation camp, that is our focus, but you do want to make sure that the kids have time to do their homework because you don’t want them to go home without that being done,” said BREC spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet.

Each day of the week has a theme, starting with Movin’ Mondays and ending with Freestyle Fridays. Along the way, students will participate in activities ranging from “parachute volleyball” to “body part freeze tag.”

The School Board agreed to the BREC partnership at its Dec. 20 meeting, right before the holidays, leaving little time to get the word out to potential participants.

Michelet said families can go to one of the nine participating parks to sign their children up and that registration will occur throughout the week. She said BREC plans to ask principals if they will let the recreation agency register children on the campuses of the 11 participating schools.

The camps start after elementary schools finish at 3:25 p.m. and last until 5:30 p.m.

The school system is providing school buses for some of the participants. BREC staff personally will escort children who are close enough to walk. Parents will have to pick up their children when the camp ends each day.

Here are the 11 school participating in the Youth 360 pilot program: Bernard Terrace, Capitol, Crestworth, Delmont, Glen Oaks Park, Howell Park, Magnolia Woods, Melrose, Merrydale, Ryan and Scotlandville elementary schools.

The nine added BREC parks are: Anna T. Jordan Community, Ben Burge Neighborhood, Maplewood Neighborhood, North Street, Howell Community, Gus Young Neighborhood, Red Oaks Neighborhood, Mills Avenue Neighborhood, and Longfellow Neighborhood parks. The schools that will use Red Oaks Neighborhood Park is unclear, Michelet said.

Michelet said the expansion was sparked in part by parents.

“We always do surveys of parents,” she said “One of the questions is, ‘Would you be interested in an after school camp?’ What we found was parents did say there was a need.”

Michelet said the $48 monthly fees cover BREC’s costs. Every BREC park can handle at most 55 participants. The program will expand the number of kids who can be served from 220 to 715.

School officials insisted that the program involved no additional cost to the system. To achieve that, schools were paired with BREC sites that were on existing bus routes.

Michelet said another goal was not to duplicate services, so schools with active after-school programs, such as the handful of elementary schools that rely on the Big Buddy program, were not included.

For information on how to register for Youth 360, call Diane Drake at (225) 272-9200 or email her at ddrake@brec.org.