A worrisome, chronic dilemma for working parents crops up at this time every year: what to do with the kids from the time they get out of school until the parents come home.
This year working parents will get help from parent and community groups providing after-school child care as well as from the D.C. school system.
Much of the school system's program involves tutoring for underachievers, but parent-teacher associations and other groups have organized programs with a range of activities at some schools.
Students from all over the city can participate in the Fillmore Arts Workshop at the Fillmore School at 35th and R streets NW, where classes in music, drama, dance and art are held three times a week. The fee for each 10-week class is $30. Classes are open to children age 4 and older.
Key Elementary School at Hurst Terrace and Dana Place NW has a PTA-sponsored extended day care program for students in pre-kindergarten though fifth grade. The fee for the 3-6 p.m. program is about $15 a week.
Other schools throughout the city have had similar extended day care programs in the past. A spokesman for the D.C. schools communications office said the programs operate "usually because parents or community groups started them and keep them going."
Many schools, such as Mann Elementary School at 44th and Newark streets NW, are not certain what, if any, kinds of programs they will offer this year. A decision about whether to operate an after-school program will be made after a meeting later this month, said Mann PTA President Susan Rhodes.
Most such programs would begin in October and would be funded by fees and PTA fund-raising efforts.
Parents should call individual schools for information.
Programs offered by the school system rather than individual PTAs or school support groups center on the city's 11 community schools. These schools usually stay open until 9 p.m. and provide a variety of free recreational and academic programs.
Pat Jamison, assistant director for community schools (724-4210), said all of the city's community schools will offer some kind of after-school program. Free tutoring in reading and math will be available from 3 to 5 p.m. at junior high-level community schools as part of Operation Outreach.
Tutoring was available five days a week in the past, but this year's program may be reduced to three days a week because of budget cuts, Jamison said.
Other community school after-hours programs will include free instruction in cooking, sewing, arts and crafts, dance and a variety of other subjects, depending on the school.
The community schools in Northwest are Takoma, Bruce Monroe, Marie Reed Learning Center and Shaw. In Northeast, they are Woodson Senior High, Logan, Fort Lincoln and River Terrace. In Southeast,they are Friendship, Winston and Washington Highlands. There are no community schools in Southwest.
For children at some private schools the outlook is bright.
For the last nine years, for example, Georgetown Day School has provided two after-school programs for children enrolled in the elementary and middle schools.
Children in grades 1-3 may enroll in an after-school program led by an early childhood specialist who is provided space by the school. Children are provided with snacks and recreational activities from after school until 6 p.m. daily.
Children in grades 4-8 may enroll in a 3-year-old extended day program through which they can study such subjects as computers, animated film, drama or art. The courses, which cost up to $75 for 10 weeks, are open only to students enrolled at Georgetown Day, said Director Gladys M. Stern.
Most extended-day programs do not provide the ideal after-school environment for younger children, according to child development specialists, who explain that after-school arrangements should be as family-like as possible.
"A child needs a time to be alone, emotional support and flexibility, not an extension of school," said Jan Bogrow, director of the Child Development Center at American University. Thus, the best after-school arrangements are flexible and recreational, with no more than about 15 children to each adult, Bogrow said.
Children should be able to eat if they're hungry and receive some individual attention, he added.
Many of these needs have been provided traditionally by grandparents or "neighborhood mothers," but the city's efforts to regulate unlicensed operations have endangered such arrangements.