The Delaware City School District is attempting to shed light on the importance of after-school programming for students and families.

The Delaware City School District is attempting to shed light on the importance of after-school programming for students and families.

Hundreds of families in the district are taking advantage of after-school and before-school programs.

Karen Jackson, director of school-age child care and community programming, said many parents who work early or late need a safe, supervised place for their children to go.

"Kids who are left to themselves often get involved in risky activities," she said. "We provide a place where students can learn to make safe choices, learn social skills and get extra help with their homework."

Students who take part in after-school activities have improved academically, district leaders said. For example, Conger Elementary School students who attended more than 90 days improved 119 percent in math and 133 percent in reading, according to Jackson's data.

English as a Second Language students also have improved 133 percent in math and 216 percent in reading, according to data provided by Woodward Elementary School.

Teachers and staff collect information from students on what kinds of activities they would like to do. There are three to five learning centers that change daily and focus on science, math, literacy, arts and crafts, music and more.

"We make sure the kids don't get bored," Jackson said. "Bored kids are kids that will get into trouble. We keep it interesting."

Some of the activities have included learning geography by tracking a pirate ship through the Atlantic; creating robots; building with Legos; making volcanoes; and learning how to decipher DNA evidence.

Students who participate in the after-school program at Dempsey Middle School have gone a step further with service projects.

"Right now, Dempsey students are making crafts to sell at the MRDD craft show to raise money for the humane society," Jackson said.

The gymnasium is also open and available for students to burn off some energy or get oxygen into their lungs first thing in the morning, Jackson said.

The Pacer Pals, Hayes High School students who are members of Big Brothers Big Sisters, participate in at least three programs each week.

Members of outside groups such as the library staffs, Preservation Parks employees, Ohio Wesleyan University professors and even parents with something interesting to share often will lead programs, Jackson said.

She said the after-school programs are not just about learning, since students are in school all day to learn.

"It's a great opportunity for kids to learn and practice behaviors they need to be successful in life," she said.

Jackson said it is a balancing act for parents to know when their child is ready to be on his or her own.

"Students in their early adolescence want freedom, but sometimes they're not ready for that," she said. "We feel strongly that we are providing fun activities for them."

In order to showcase the importance of the after-school programs, Delaware, along with 6,500 school districts across the state, will host a Lights On carnival from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Woodward Elementary School, 200 S. Washington St., for all Delaware parents and students.

The after-school program costs $55 per week for afternoons and $70 per week for mornings and afternoons. The Dempsey program is free to families, due to a large grant received by the school.

"We are real proud of how our kids do," Jackson said. "Our parents are thrilled with their child's social growth, how they relate to other students and how well they are doing in school."