After School is a Learning Opportunity, Too

TISD wants more kids to stay after class. Not because they're in trouble, but because it may mean better grades. Now, the state is helping Tyler Middle Schools develop more afternoon programs.

The kids come for the snacks, gummy fruits and Honey Buns. They stay for the chance to learn.

"The atmosphere and the structure in this kind of setting is different than it is in the normal classroom," says math teacher Blake Helm. "They're working on computers, they're playing computer games."

Dozens of Boulter Middle School students stay past the final bell every day into the late afternoon. The computers are loaded with educational software where the games are the teachers. But, the computers are slowing down.

"They're getting old," says program coordinator Tammy Pannell. "And the newer programs will not run on them as efficiently as they would on the newer computers."

That's where the state steps in. TISD has received more than $200,000 to improve the after school program. That means new computers, software, and even 16 PlayStation II's.

"Some of the kids will be using the same program on the computer and then when they get ready to go home, they can continue that program at home with the PlayStation II's," says Pannell. "It has a docking station so they can download what they've done at home onto the computer we can keep up with what they're doing."

The school also plans to add extra curricular activities to the afternoon program by next fall. Those include chess, martial arts, and guitar lessons. Boulter hopes the new computers and expanded programs will encourage more kids to stay late and learn more. Of course, if that happens, Boulter will need to stock up on additional snacks.

Stephen Parr, reporting.