Cambridge children can count on having a wide choice of enriching programs to round out their school day, either in the hour before classes begin or after the end of the school day. These out-of-school-time programs provide recreational and athletic choices, academic tutoring and a wide range of enrichment pursuits such as karate, fencing, art, music, needlework and hundreds of other choices. For many years, an abundance of “enriching” OST programs have been offered for Cambridge children from age 15 months through 19 years of age, especially through city programs and private OST providers.

Cambridge excels in its efforts to provide safe and enriching before- and afterschool programming for our children. No one is turned away if the family budget cannot cover the tuition. Children who qualify for free lunches also qualify as recipients of scholarship money for enrollment in most afterschool programs as well as summer camp. Working parents have until 6 p.m. to pick up their children from any of these programs, thus extending the school day experience to nine hours from the usual six. High school students can begin the academic day at 7:30 a.m. with free math tutoring provided by volunteers. In addition, the high school offers more than 30 clubs and extracurricular activities.

The most recent resource guide published by the city Department of Human Services lists one program option for children 15 months to 2.9 years; 23 offerings for children 2.9 years to 5.11 years; 24 OST programs for children K to 2nd Grade; 29 OST programs for children in second grade up to entering the fifth grade; 27 OST choices for children 9-13 years of age, and 21 OST programs for children in the teen years of 14 through 19. There are private programs with a large number of choices not mentioned here.

City OST programs welcome all children regardless of their level of ability. Specialists are on hand to assist program leaders with any student that requires individualized instruction in the program of her or his choice.

In view of the above, I found a recent letter to the editor of Cambridge Day complaining about a “dearth” of programming for children rather perplexing.

Does the word dearth describe a list of 125 Department of Human Services OST offerings? Hardly, rather, it seems one would find it difficult to decide which program to choose among so many wonderful choices. The resource guide is available from the Department of Human Services at 51 Inman St. Check with the School Department for OST programs offered at the city’s elementary schools and high school.

Some closing thoughts: In middle school, some students begin to lose interest in OST programs and enrollment seems to drop off somewhat for this age group. One could speculate on the cause for this lack of interest in afterschool programs, but the city decided to do something about it. Early this year, the city developed a plan called Shared Youth, Shared Strategies that outlines a citywide approach for enhancing OST opportunities for middle school youth. The plan builds on a strategic goal adopted by the City Council and School Committee, which is: to ensure broad participation of Cambridge middle school youth in quality out‐of-school‐time experiences that foster their present and future learning and life success. The city hopes to further develop and implement system‐level strategies over the next three years (from June 2009 to June 2012). Stay tuned.

Carolyn Shipley