By Clay Schuldt
Just because the school day is over does not mean all the students go home. Dozens of after school programs ranging from athletics to band practice continue long after the last bell has rung. Three days a week middle school students have an opportunity to remain in school a little while longer, allowing them to work on homework, projects and study with peers. The program is appropriately called “Beyond the Bell,” and it has been after school for the last 16 years.
Beyond the Bell began in 1997, and middle/high school student services secretary Kristi Knutson has been a part of the program since day one. Knutson admitted it has not seemed like the program has been going for 16 years.
Students that started in the program in the first years have already graduated. Knutson admits that at times she has trouble believing it’s been that long. The longevity of the Beyond the Bell program is owed to in large part to its success.
With around 25 students currently enrolled in Beyond the Bell, Knutson and a rotating group of teachers, need to be able to help students on a variety of projects.
The first hour of Beyond the Bell serves as an unofficial study hall with students working on a variety of school related work. At one table a group of sixth graders could be working on a practice math test, while few feet away fellow student Kerrigan Scanlan helps the younger students practice for a spelling test. Other students work to finish book reports. Others research world events from the year they were born. Tate Meiners, born in 2001, asks if anyone knows who won the Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Awards that year.
While Beyond the Bell is intended as an academic program, many of the students continue to attend for the entertainment. The idea is to have something different than the traditional school day, rather than simply be an extension of middle school classes.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays Beyond the Bell meets for two hours. On these days the students get to participate in a special activity for the second hour. Knutson said that the activity is often associated with an upcoming holiday. During Christmas the students donated items for a special Christmas store.
The week of Valentine’s Day they baked and decorated holiday theme cookies. According to Knutson, baking cookies is a favorite activity, although a game called clothespin tag is becoming quite popular with the youths as well.
At the end of the school year students who remain with the program through the year are allowed to spend a school day at Beaver Creek State Park.
Beyond the Bell/CMS After-School Program is held on Mondays from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursdays from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. Beyond the Bell is free for open enrollment throughout the year for middle school students. Participants do not have to attend every session, but do need to register for the days they plan to attend.
Beyond the Bell started in response to a need to assist middle school students in grades 6 through 8 with homework. The program is funded through Targeted Services and has three components: academic support through enhanced programing, social activities and emotional activities. Perhaps Beyond the Bell’s greatest success is creating an environment in which students want stay at school.