Saturday, June 22, 2024

As a parent of teens, I can only reiterate the importance of achieving structured quality out-of-school options for our kids. As stated by leading advocates for afterschool programming, kids are awake 6,000 hours per year. They spend 1,000 of those hours in school and the remaining 5,000 hours trying to figure out what to do with themselves. While I agree with City Councilman Craig Kelley that sleep and limited screen time is essential, these tactics in and of themselves fall very short of addressing the real need.

First we need to address economic disparity among our families and its effect on students. Families that are well-resourced and have a parent at home have the wherewithal to fund and schedule afterschool activities for their kids. However, for the majority of families in Cambridge, many obstacles impede a families’ ability to constructively occupy their children after school. Barriers to constructive oversight range from language and cultural differences; economic impediments due to both parents working, the primary caretaker working or lack of resources; poor family structure and support; or cognitive, emotional, and/or physical disabilities that require specialized programming.

Having experienced firsthand the dearth of afterschool options in our public school system, I cannot overstate the importance of keeping our kids constructively engaged for as many hours as possible. Engaged students develop better social, emotional and academic skills. An enhanced feeling of self-worth and engagement keeps our students motivated to work hard and more resilient to the inevitable bumps.

Additionally, we are a well-resourced city with a multitude of public and private entities to partner with and derive support from, including Lesley University, which has one of the only afterschool-education degree programs in the country.

If we want to improve academic performance, the health and safety of our students and schools, as well as the emotional well-being of our students, I think it is imperative that the City Council as well as the School Committee take a hard and well-considered look at options for developing a meaningful and sustainable afterschool program for our much deserving youth.

Fran Cronin

Cambridge Public Schools parent