St. Joseph Public Schools put pause on after-school clubs

NOW: St. Joseph Public Schools put pause on after-school clubs

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -  Right now schools across the country are making the best of a hard situation. But to keep students safe costs money and in some cases leaves no leftover cash for extracurriculars like after school clubs.

Before and after school programs bring much-needed socialization back into the lives of students. While some schools have reopened those clubs with ease others are having trouble finding it in their budget.

After school clubs have been put on hold since the spring and bringing them back is a unique challenge. But for New Prairie United School Corporation, the decision was seamless.

“So we didn't have to close anything, I think through the cares act, and then other funding. And as I said, the health care foundation, the money was there to help make sure that it was safe and would thrive," Erika Buhring, the After-School Program Enrichment Coordinator at New Prairie Schools said.

Buhring said there haven't been any issues reopening clubs.

“Not really issues just maintaining kind of a high level of standards that we have in place," she said.

Safety standards are just one issue holding clubs back in other school districts like St. Joseph Public Schools in Michigan.

“Our main objective is having the opportunity to be here with the pandemic, and not lose that opportunity. So we're really trying to limit the number of interactions face to face that the kids are having in the building," Greg Blomgren, St. Joseph High School Principal said.

4 to 500 students are normally involved in after school clubs at St. Joseph High School. That’s half of the 1,000 students learning there. Leaving school officials having to make those hard decisions.

“We've asked the majority of those just to kind of pause and halt for safety reasons for protocol reasons," Blomgren said.

And for budgetary reasons.

“All the things that we've had to do extra has cut into our money's here in our budget at the high school. So we've had to account for those and really focus on how do we provide safety and security here for the kids at school so that we can be here. And again, kind of put those clubs and activities to the side for right now," he said.

While the school normally has 35 clubs students can choose from, this year that selection is limited.

Clubs like the National Honor Society, Senate, Robotics, and Orchestra are just some of the handful of programs allowed to run.

“There's a few of those clubs and activities that have competitions, or things that are deadlines that they have to meet in order to register for certain things that go along with the clubs and activities. So we've said yes to those," Blomgren said.

“I'm in the band, NHS, Student Senate and then I'm a football player, basketball player, soccer player," Reese Uzelac, a senior at St. Joe said.

For Uzelac, these clubs are a way for her to be a part of a community and still be involved – and for her, it means a lot.

“it was just it was nice to have a little bit of something back. I'm just very thankful, I feel very lucky. Because I mean, as a senior, I'm, for all just hoping for the best this year and trying to make the most of it,"  Uzelac said. "And it's really gotten to me, so I know that it's probably getting the other people to even more so when some of their favorite things are canceled.”

Although most of her clubs are still running, know others don't have that opportunity is dispiriting. 

“I mean, I wish they could. I wish that every single day," she said.

“I'm a student senate advisor," Amanda Wallace who doubles as a math teacher said. "A lot of Student Senate in schools is to promote this positive school culture. So allowing the kids to work on that and plan events and do anything that they can to promote some positivity in the building is really important right now.”

Some clubs like Senate are looking at ways to continue running, even if it means virtually.

“We don't meet in person just to like, you know, keep the space in the distance. So the events that we have, we still you know, follow all the protocols. But we'll meet virtually still just in case," Wallace said.

“It's a little weird. But it still works pretty well," Uzelac said.

While others are working around safety precautions.

“The orchestras have concerts this week, the band will do concerts next week," Burke Lokey, the Orchestra Director said. "Each group is having their own concert. So it's fewer people in the audience, shorter concerts, and fewer people on stage.”

Lokey said making sure his club is still going is very important.

“For many students, these extracurriculars are the reason they come to school," he said. "And without those clubs, and without those activities, the students really struggle to find those places those safe places on their own.”

Even though some clubs are put on pause, students and faculty are just making the best of a hard situation.

“We're hoping that as the finances for the state continue to play out, that we're able to get those clubs and activities up and running again.," Blomgren said. “We want to be here. The kids want to be here. The parents want the kids to be here. The staff wants to be here. So we're going to keep doing everything we can to make sure that we can have the kids here every day if we can.”

As always, you can email us at LearningCurve@abc57.com with any questions or concerns regarding your school district.

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