The Coast News Group
A student at Ocean Knoll Elementary takes part in a learning module during the before-school portion of Intervention, an extracurricular learning program. The after-school portion has resumed at some schools and is slated to begin at others thanks in part to funding being replenished by Prop. 30, and largely because of school principals’ support. Photo by Jared Whitlock

After-school program in session at schools again

ENCINITAS — Niki Burger’s son, a fifth-grader at Flora Vista Elementary, is tutored Monday through Thursday for an hour once school is out. Since enrolling in the program more than a year ago, his grades have gone up, and he has a better handle on difficult math problems. 

“I’m a single mom and this has been a lifesaver for me,” said Burger, referring to the program, known as Intervention.

The after-school Intervention program is popular with parents and school officials across EUSD (Encinitas Union School District). Still, the program’s future was in doubt earlier this year due to budget cuts on the horizon. But, with the passage of Proposition 30, some of the district’s 12 schools have resumed the after-school Intervention, and others plan on starting the program soon.

Flora Vista Elementary was one of the few schools where after-school Intervention started in November, only a few weeks later than previous years.

“We were uncertain that the program would happen at all this year,” said Stephanie Casperson, the school’s principal.

Casperson added that if Proposition 30 didn’t get the green light, she would have asked the PTA to fund most of the program — a tall order as money from the PTA is already plugging holes in other areas of the budget.

After-school Intervention placement starts at the beginning of the school year, when students take reading, writing and math assessments. Those who are found below standards in a subject are eligible for the program. Once Intervention starts in late October, around 40 students are given individual attention from eight or so trained instructors, though the number of students and instructors varies from school to school.

“The attention students get is tailored to their needs,” Casperson said. “This kind of attention really benefits these students.”

Casperson pointed to several statistics as evidence of the program’s success. Last year, there was a 5 percent gain in math and a 3 percent increase in reading proficiency.

And while other schools report similar success, funding was stripped from the extracurricular program last summer to reconcile budget cuts that assumed Proposition 30 wouldn’t pass. When the proposition moved forward, EUSD reinstated $83,000 in funding for the program, because so many principals were vocal about it continuing.

Ocean Knoll Elementary School Principal Angelica Lopez was among them.

Thanks to Proposition 30 passing and with the help of some PTA funding, after-school Intervention is tentatively slated to begin Jan. 28 for grades two through six at Ocean Knoll. The start date wasn’t in November like previous years. But better late than never, Lopez said.

She noted Intervention is important for reinforcing lessons learned throughout the day.

“Math isn’t just a half-hour a day,” Lopez said. “I’m trying to get away from fragmented lessons. The idea is that students will come across curriculum throughout the day to reinforce what they’ve learned — to really commit them to memory.”

As well as after-school Intervention, there are before and during-school programs at Ocean Knoll that are geared toward English learners. Those programs began earlier in the school year because their funding comes more from grants and federal sources.

Taken together, Lopez said the Intervention programs provide a comprehensive foundation for students across ability levels.

“What we’re noticing is that multiple opportunities in the day benefit students the most,” Lopez said.

First-grade teacher Julie Kusiak, who is also an instructor for before and after-school Intervention at Ocean Knoll, agreed as she monitored a classroom of students.

“I think we make a difference with these extracurricular programs,” Kusiak said. “Not just in test scores, but we help them build a lot of skills.”