Because of YOU and our collective efforts to make our presence known and our voice heard, this has CHANGED. Because of us, a very bright spotlight has shined down on out-of-school learning recently and has pushed Beyond the Bell and out-of-school learning to the forefront of educational conversations in our schools and community.
You want to watch something powerful?! Check out the video from the March 4th Harrisonburg City School Board meeting (watch minute 7:45-8:30) when more than 80+ young people, parents and community members stood in support of Beyond the Bell. This turnout came on the heels of two consecutive snow days! And what a beautiful thing to see the School Board meeting audience reflect the diversity of our schools and community. We are the change.
Our presence at the March 4th school board meeting was only the latest in a string of efforts that included a letter writing campaign, numerous pieces in the local media, and a presentation that included more than a dozen testimonials at the February 18th school board meeting.
WE ARE THE CHANGE.
Because of OUR efforts,
- HCPS now states they will spend $400,000 this coming year on after-school programs (up from the reported $300,000 that was shared at the February 18th school board meeting)
- Chairman of the School Board, Nick Swayne, recently stated in a DNR article, "The board certainly intends on having robust [after-school] programs now and in the foreseeable future"
- Superintendent Scott Kizner has shifted his language from how little money can be spent on after-school programs to more recently stating in a WHSV interview that he plans to start a new after school program modeled after Beyond the Bell
ONLY THE BEGINNING.
Despite the change WE have created, this is only the beginning because a 100+ people did not attend school board meetings and write countless letters for programs LIKE Beyond the Bell, but FOR Beyond the Bell, and the quality, in-depth, rigorous programming and long-lasting impact we represent. Beyond the Bell was developed in Harrisonburg City Schools, for the Harrisonburg City Schools, by Harrisonburg City Schools and JMU personnel, and is a proven out-of-school learning program that is now engaging hundreds of students and their families.
Many questions remain. Here are just a few of them:
- In what ways does it make sense to start a new program when you have Beyond the Bell, a model that works and is already valued by the young people, families and community?
- How will current HCPS administrators have the time and develop the specialized expertise to lead quality out-of-school learning programs that lead to consistent participation and long-lasting impact for our young people?
- Will transportation be provided for these new after-school programs that are essential to meeting the needs of our low-income and working families?
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE.
Although the Harrisonburg City Schools budget has not been finalized yet, all indications point to Beyond the Bell NOT being funded by the School Board, despite the more than $4.1 million in grant funds that have led to the creation of this effective and highly valued program as well as having supported countless other HCPS out-of-school time efforts.
Quality out-of-school learning programs are essential to fulfilling our schools' promises of equity and excellence for ALL our young people. And, despite more attention being paid to this issue by Harrisonburg City Schools, much more is needed to ensure that the promised programs are high-quality and lead to long-lasting impact for our young people and their families.
As a key voice for a diverse and growing body of citizens who value quality, out-of-school learning opportunities for all students at all levels, but most especially middle school, Beyond the Bell will work to assure our schools keep the promises being made about new programs. Beyond the Bell will continue working with all in our community, including our School Board, Superintendent and school leaders, to ensure educational equity and opportunity for all.
Brent Holsinger, M.Ed.