Letters Extra: Sounding the call on after-school aid

Marciene Mattleman watches India Squire make a move against Jarell Irving at Gideon Elementary. Mattleman's ASAP program helped the city school form a chess club.

The After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP) commitment of $50,000 to enhance programs in schools may see like a drop in the bucket. But for ASAP, it represents 10 percent of the organization’s entire expenditures this year, efforts that underwrite safe and fun activities in chess, Scrabble, drama, and debate for more than 5,000 Philadelphia kids in the often-dangerous after school hours.

As an ASAP board member, I could not be prouder. And I hope ASAP’s commitment will serve as a catalyst for many more civic actors to step up with funding to ensure that all students benefit from the challenging but necessary process of school consolidation underway in the city schools.

Here are some examples that would build on the ASAP investment:

Businesses could invest in adding new programming in high schools that will be receiving students from career and technical education programs in closing schools.

Universities could boost the number of their students who volunteer in receiving schools as mentors, tutors, recess and recreation aides, and provide campus visits, SAT prep, and assistance completing admissions and financial aid applications.

The philanthropic community could set aside funds earmarked for welcoming activities and student support services in the receiving schools, especially in late June and over the summer, when students and families from closing schools need to become acquainted with their counterparts in receiving schools and where new faculty and staff need to become integrated into their new school families.

Professional sports teams could underwrite expanded recreational, intramural and interscholastic sports.

Health care institutions could step up with volunteers to supplement nursing services, nutrition education, and wellness programs.

The restaurant community could help the receiving schools offer more healthy and appealing breakfast and lunch programs and develop students’ healthy eating habits and cooking skills.

Our cultural institutions could support expanded art, music, dance and drama instruction and clubs.

In a different world, such investments would be icing on the cake. But in the perilous financial situation of the School District, they ARE the cake.

Leaders from all these sectors have welcomed the new school superintendent, Dr. William R. Hite, Jr. Now they need to help him succeed. Because, when the District had to borrow $300. million just to keep the lights turned on and to meet payroll, you know how limited resources are to expand the kind of programming we know our students need.

When we are forced to close schools, we have a social and moral obligation to ensure that their students will find better opportunities in their new schools — that they will be welcomed, integrated both academically and socially into their new environment, receive the kind of emotional support they need to cope with the transition, improve their academic performance and attendance, have opportunities to become leaders, and receive the preparation they need for careers and college.

ASAP is “the little engine that could” compared to the Metroliners and Acelas of our civic landscape. Now is the time for the big engines to help ensure that school consolidations become a win/win deal for all the affected students, both the 10,000 from the closing schools and their new classmates in the 40 receiving schools.

Debra Weiner, Quakertown