By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Friendship and fun
Afterschool program Our Time provides children time to unwind
Placeholder Image
When Joy Deal first started coordinating the after school program for the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department 15 years ago, there were 89 students involved at four schools.
    Since then, the program, known as Our Time, has seen tremendous growth and this year, the after school program is at all nine elementary schools in Bulloch with 677 students registered.
    Deal said the rise in popularity of the program is related to a number of factors.
    The biggest, however, is the need for quality supervision for children.
    “There’s just a need for after school care,” Deal said. “Both parents are working, or there’s a single parent who is working as well.
    “We used to count on grandparents for supervision, but we don’t count on them because they’re so busy as well,” she said.
    While the children are at the after school program, they’re kept busy with games and other activities that parents seem to appreciate, Deal said. Offerings vary at each school, depending on the available space and facilities available.
    But the overall mission remains the same for each.
    “Our goal is to provide quality care in a school setting with a recreation emphasis,” Deal said.
    That’s done through a variety of measures, from time to play on the playground to games to areas set up for homework and couches for students who may want to read or just relax.
    “They just get to play,” Deal said. “There’s not a lot of playtime for kids anymore.”
    Dianne Bath, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning with the Bulloch County Board of Education, said the schools and the recreation department have had a great relationship throughout the years.
    From the board of education’s viewpoint, they appreciate that the students are supervised and have opportunities to study and complete homework, which improves the education system in Bulloch County, Bath said.
    Sara Donnelly, site manager at Brooklet Elementary School, said parents are grateful knowing that their children are at a place where they are safe and are supervised.
    She said the workers, who are mostly college students from Georgia Southern, get to know the children and be a part of their lives.
    “If they’re having a problem and they’re talking to you each day, you can see the difference when they’re better and you know you played a part of that. It’s really rewarding,” Donnelly said.
    She also said she enjoys seeing the children outside of Our Time.
    “They’re usually kind of shy, like they’re not sure they’re seeing me (outside of the school),” she said. “But then they come up and give you a really big hug. I love it.”
    At Sallie Zetterower Elementary, their program is seeking accreditation from the National After School Association.
    “Since the program has been around this long, we wanted to take the next step,” Deal said.
    The program received a $5,000 grant, but had to choose one location to focus on earning the accreditation. With the grant, Our Time has purchased supplies and games geared to help them reach their goal.
    “There’s a whole book of standards, so we have to change to make sure when the accreditors come that we’re doing the right things,” said Shay Cowart, one of the counselors at Sallie Zetterower.
    One of the big things they’ve done is give children choices in the activities they choose, thereby creating a sense of independence.
    “The kids can go to the gym or the computer lab or the art room,” Cowart said. “It’s all about letting them have their freedom.”
    Eventually, Deal said she hopes all the locations will earn accreditation.
    “It would mean we offer the highest possible quality after school program, according to the National After School Association,” Deal said.
    For more information, contact Deal at (912) 764-5637 or visit
    Luke Martin can be reached at  (912) 489-9454.
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter