The La Conner School District opened its doors to a new after school program August 30. Program Director Marlene Brenton has big plans for it. Brenton directed the La Conner Boys and Girls Club closed in June by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County. Her experience includes 23 years in the school district, primarily in the Special Education programs and LAP (Learning Assistance Program).
Brenton worked for the Boys & Girls Club for 11 years. Now she is back with an eye towards the future of the kids in La Conner.
“This was perfect timing for me,” she says regarding the replacement of the Boys and Girls Club with the district’s own run Little Braves Club. “We used to have 100 kids a day coming through. The all-time high was 163 kids.”
The program had 32 kids enrolled at its opening, but Brenton is expecting those numbers to steadily climb as word gets out about the new activities and structure.
“We have some great phonics programs that I brought over from the school district,” Brenton says, pointing out that children will be given designated time to work on homework as well as time for extracurricular and fun activities. “I absolutely expect the number [of enrolled students] to be bigger since it’s from the district and it is a closed door.”
Children would be allowed to come and go without restrictions in the Boys and Girls Club program. The school district will not allow children from kindergarten to fifth grade to leave without a parent or guardian. Parents are expected to feel more secure about where their children are after school.
A big focus is being placed on new activities to engage the kids. “We are going to have monthly themes. So September will be getting to know you and getting to know us month,” says Brenton. Crime prevention month will be October’s focus, in honor of Brenton’s son: He was killed in the line of duty as a Seattle Police Officer in October, 2009. Police officers will participate and will bring K9 units for the children to meet police dogs, too.
The students will write first responders, both locally and across the country, sending letters thanking them for their service. “It’s important for the kids to know if there is a disaster that they can reach out and be helped,” Brenton noted.
Funding is a big challenge. Without the backing of the Boys and Girls club national organization, the school district is responsible for keeping the doors open itself. “We have to raise $80,000 by June,” says Brenton. It’s a huge undertaking but one she is optimistic about. “We have a fundraiser coming up on December 9 with the creator of Hey Arnold, Craig Bartlett.” Bartlett, who also has titles like Trolls 2 and Sid the Science Kid, has special ties to the area: His sister, Connie Funk is a long-time district employee. She has transferred to provide support to the after-school program.
Details for the event still have to be worked out, but Brenton is optimistic the fundraiser will be a success.
Helping Brenton with her work are two dedicated para-educators, Stevie “Ray” Goetz and Ashton Tveter. “We have an amazing staff,” says Brenton.
Parents can register their children at 301 North 6th Street for $25; the monthly fee is $50. The program’s regular hours are Monday through Friday 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The regular school closure calendar will be followed.
A healthy snack will be provided everyday along with the activities and homework assistance. People looking to donate funds, time or materials can turn to www.lcsd.wednet.edu/domain/150.