Back to School Guide to After-School Programs
NEW YORK — Pop quiz, hotshot: If students leave school at 3 p.m., and parents' workdays ends at 6 p.m., how do you fill the hours between?
Should be easy, we know, but for parents on a budget, finding a free or low-cost after-school program for their children be daunting — especially the city cut funding to 200 after-school programs in April.
There remain, however, more than 700 free and low-cost after-school programs to choose from, ranging from the Chinese American Planning Council's program in Chinatown, to The Bronx Arts Program in Morris Heights, to Police Athletic Leagues all over the city. Almost all are listed on the city's Department of Youth and Community Development website. Even more can be found on the Parks Department and Partnership for After School Education websites.
Most programs run from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and include homework help, athletics, arts-and-crafts, and free healthy snacks. Many are also open on weekends, holidays, and during the summer.
You can narrow the selections on the organizations' websites by zip code, borough, community district, or interest, but the filters still leave plenty to choose from.
The Partnership for After School Education publishes a checklist parents can use when shopping for an after-school program, which includes questions for programs' staff and directors, as well as the children enrolled there.
"You're looking for a nurturing environment after school for young children, and you're looking for well-organized, engaging activities if they're older," advised Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, which offers elementary-school programs in Manhattan schools. "If they're younger, you also want a nice range of activities."
Jose Ortiz, director of the NOAR after-school program at the 92nd Street Y, suggested checking whether the program offers free transportation to and from school.
"Families are working, and they need that support," he said.
Parents should also inquire at after-school programs that require registration fees, Ortiz said. Although the sticker prices might at first be beyond parents' range, many programs provide need-based scholarships and early-registration discounts that can make the programs more affordable.
Children ages 13 and older can also browse hundreds of internships and work opportunities, also listed on the Department of Youth and Community Development website.
Registration for all these programs typically starts in mid-August. Check with individual programs for details.