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Nevils program earns accreditation
Afterschool one of two in county with recognition
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      Parents whose children stay for the afterschool program at Nevils Elementary already knew they were receiving quality care, said Dana McKinley. She believes the recent accreditation just adds some outside confirmation.
      "It means that somebody outside of us has acknowledged it," she said. "I mean, we know it, but Nevils being such a small little community ... I think it's something great that we've got, and if anything, it's just going to make our after school program look that much better."
      Of the afterschool programs operated at all nine of Bulloch County's public elementary schools by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation Department, Nevils is only the second to be accredited.
       Sallie Zetterower Elementary School's program was accredited in 2007 by the National AfterSchool Association, or NAA. The NAA has since turned over its accrediting work to the Council on Accreditation, which also accredits family centers, youth homes and other social service organizations. The Council on Accreditation formally listed the Nevils site as accredited Nov. 17.
      McKinley has two children in the Nevils program, a daughter who started there last year and is now in kindergarten, and a son now in pre-K.
      Her children started out staying after school three days a week, then begged her to go five. Now, she reports, they object if she picks them up early.
      "They love it," McKinley said. "We all know each other, and they have fun, they exercise, they do things. They involve the kids and let them participate and keep it to where the kids are with their own age group too. I have enjoyed it. It's been a blessing to me as a working mother, that's for sure."

Getting accredited
      McKinley served as a parent representative on the accreditation committee.
      The process has taken about two years to complete, said Joy Deal, countywide afterschool program supervisor for the Parks & Recreation Department. Program officials had to submit paperwork showing all of their policies and procedures, ranging from how they deal with student discipline to how they remind parents and public of the no-smoking policy. Of course, they also documented the learning and recreational activities offered children.
     "Every policy you could imagine, we had to make sure we had it in place," Deal said, "and we did have those in place. If we didn't, we had to develop a policy to meet that need. We may have had to develop one or two, or sometimes it was just rewording and policy."
      The Council on Accreditation also requires a certain number of hours of annual staff training, which Deal reports the SBCPRD was already providing.
      "But we had to just put it on paper as to what we were training, who was doing the training, how many hours," she said.

Afterschool begins
      Parks & Recreation's afterschool program began at four elementary schools in Statesboro more than 20 years ago. It grew to include all nine Bulloch County elementary schools by 1999. In fact, the program now has 10 sites, having split the Brooklet Elementary program to include both the school site and a nearby recreation building.
      According to figures Deal provided, the countywide program enrolled just 85 children in 1993 and now has between 600 and 650 participants, after a record enrollment of about 700 last year.
      The school system cooperates by providing space at each school.
      "We have a great collaboration with our Board of Education," Deal said. "The principals are very welcoming of us offering after school care. They realize that parents need it."
      Nevils Elementary School Principal Julie Blackmar helped provide information and other help needed for accreditation, and Bre Farmer, the SBCPRD's afterschool site coordinator for Nevils, made sure the site looked its best every day, Deal said. Someone from the Council on Accreditation visited the site as part of the review.
      Most, but not all, of the schools now provide a dedicated classroom for the afterschool program, which also uses gyms, playgrounds, cafeterias and, in some cases, additional classrooms. It's open to children up to fifth grade, and extends from the close of school until 6 p.m.

Staff on site
      A teacher or paraprofessional serves as site manager at most schools, while the Recreation Department also employs a site coordinator, usually a college student, with other interns completing the staff. The program maintains a 1-to-10 staff to child ratio. The fee is $150 per month for staying from 2:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. five days per week, with a discount for paying by the first of the month and lower rates for fewer days or fewer hours.
      Each day's activities are scheduled, including a snack, homework and reading time and opportunities for art activities and individual and group play. Each site is equipped with a television and a Wii console, and dedicated classrooms like the one at Nevils have living room-like sitting areas and various play centers.
      Nevils has one of the smaller programs, with about 35 children.
      A grant from the state's Bright from the Start program purchased about $2,000 worth of supplies for the program and paid the Council on Accreditation for the expense of its review, which Deal said amounted to about $4,500. Deal and the Parks & Recreation Department's leadership would like to see all of the sites accredited, but this is limited by the available funding, she said.
      "We do have hopes that within this next year we will go forward with three more sites," Deal said. "Bright from the Start has some money and they want us to continue  to make sure that we're doing that here in Georgia."
   One of the sites would be Sallie Zetterower, whose original accreditation will expire in 2011 as the school moves to a new campus. Julia P. Bryant Elementary and Brooklet Elementary are the others targeted.

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