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Sunday, July 3, 2022
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MAKE SCHOOLS AFTER HOURS HAVENS

The recent rash of rapes of children in St. Thomas has frightened people badly, but out of that fear and outrage has come a healthy dialogue about ways to protect our children. It is just a shame that it took repeated and well-publicized rapes to make us realize how vulnerable so many of our children are to evil predators.
We have a suggestion to offer too to protect and help our children grow into healthy, happy, productive adults. It's costly, and it will take time, energy, creativity and commitment but we believe it could solve many of the problems facing our young people today.
It is to create after-school programs, similar to the Beacons, at all of our public schools.
Ideally, of course, we'd like to see the academic school day extended through the late afternoon and early evening hours, as Hawaii has done in its public schools. In fact, we should research what Hawaii has done and how it did it — and the results of its bold experiment on students' academic performance and social and emotional development.
But realistically, we can't afford to pay teachers for an extended academic day. Realistically, we can't afford to open Beacons in all our schools either, since the Beacon program is struggling just to maintain programs at its three existing schools — and it has to shut down in the summer, when it would be most needed, because it lacks funds for a year-round program.
But where there's a will, there should be a way.
If we have the will to make our school buildings into after-school havens for children where they could get tutoring, take part in extra-curricular activities or even just hang out in a safe, supervised place, we can make it happen.
We challenge the people who have the wherewithal to make it happen — our top educators, the leading nonprofit organizations, our service clubs and business organizations — to come together and figure out how.
Many schools have adopters. They could help. Federal and foundation grants are available for after-school programs. We need to go after them. We have a small army of young retirees out there. They could be recruited to assist.
It could be done. The question is, do we care enough to try?

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