IPS seeks community help to expand before- and after-school care to all pre-K-5 students who need it

A woman with light brown hair sits at a round table teaching five students in a classroom with large windows behind them.
Indianapolis Public Schools hopes to expand before- and after-school care to all pre-K-5 students who need it. (Getty Images)

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Indianapolis Public Schools is asking for help from the community to increase availability of before- and after-school care for students districtwide.

The Engage Every Student Indianapolis campaign — launched on Thursday with At Your School, the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, and other community partners — seeks to provide before- and after-school programs for all students who need it, from pre-K to fifth grade, by the 2024-25 school year.

Some community centers that currently offer programming and partner with the district have waitlists, officials say, while staffing also remains a challenge. The district call to action seeks pledges from community organizations to work with the district to eliminate the waitlists.

Community partners already on board with the initiative hope to work with the district to properly staff programs that are located both at schools and elsewhere. IPS also hopes to tap district employees to serve as paid staff for the programs.

“While our specific work may vary, our goal of providing quality care is universal,” said Natasha Bellak, vice president of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. “When we work together, we move everyone close to meeting that goal.”

The district already partners with about a dozen community centers and other organizations to offer before- or after-school care, in some cases at the school and in others off-site. Fees for such care can vary based on the provider; low-income families can seek assistance through the federal Child Care and Development Fund administered by the state’s Family and Social Services Administration.

The district plans to expand the number of these collaborative programs from 15 after-school offerings to at least 25 by next school year, and to add more before-school programs, which are currently at about 10.

Staff at Daniel Webster School 46 plan to launch a before- and after-school program on Monday, in partnership with At Your School, to address the need in the southwest corner of the district.

“IPS welcomes and encourages other youth program providers to connect with the district, so that we can better support our pre-K-fifth-grade students during these critical development years,” said Mary Seifert, director of student engagement and extended learning for IPS.

People from interested organizations can get involved by filling out the pledge form.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org.

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