September 05, 2013OSSIPEE — In its 11th year, the Ossipee Central School School's Out Afterschool Program is as popular as ever with students, offering a wide variety of fun and educational programs.
The program has been providing afterschool enrichment activities to Ossipee children since 2003 and serves about 50 of those children daily.
The daily program offers a healthy snack, homework clubs, a wide variety of enrichment programs and late bus transportation. The list of activity options is long and ever-changing with some of the choices including cooking classes, drill team instruction, Zumba, rock climbing, a young explorer program, and a history/agriculture program in cooperation with Remick Farm and Museum.
The program gets about half of its annual budget through a federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. The remaining $80,000 must be raised annually through town meeting funding, tuition fees, fundraisers, and donations, as well as any other smaller grants. Additionally, Governor Wentworth Regional School District provides a significant amount of in-kind support to the program serving as the program's fiscal agent and providing use of the school building.
Tuition fees are on a sliding scale system and are based on the free/reduced lunch program, with no child turned away due to inability to pay. As more and more children are now qualifying for the free/reduced lunch program, the amount of money collected in tuition fees has steadily dropped through the years. The program used to collect about $20,000 in tuition fees annually, according to Director Jen Berkowitz, but now collects about half as much. This leaves even more dollars to be raised through donations and fundraising. Berkowitz, who has been the director since the program's inception, said she is constantly seeking out new corporate and public grant opportunities while looking at ways to raise private donations and keep the program operating as cost-effectively as possible.
The program recently received some positive news that can help with keeping it afloat. NH Electric Co-op Foundation has approved awarding the program a challenge grant for up to $5,000. The Foundation will issue a check of up to $5,000 immediately upon proof that the matching $5,000 has been raised or committed to Schools Out, said Berkowitz.
"We are looking for community champions to help us match this grant and raise the necessary funds to continue to provide high quality afterschool programs for all Ossipee children. This funding request is only a portion of the funds that need to be raised for the 2013-14 school year," said Berkowitz.
In an effort to manage the program as efficiently as possible, some areas had to be scaled back, including accepting fewer students into the program and some of the program offerings have been scaled back to save money on the cost of materials and contracting with instructors from the community. That certainly hasn't affected, however, the enrichment value and variety of the programs students in this small community have access to every weekday after school.
For more information or to make a donation, please contact Jennifer Berkowitz at Ossipee Central School, 68 Main Street, Center Ossipee, NH 03814; or call 539-4589