As the staff at Brooklyn Center Community Schools prepares for the launch of another school year, their focus is not only on what happens during the school day, but also outside the normal classroom activities. Their before-and after-school programs, STEP and LEAP are key components of the community school model. With school starting soon, parents are now registering their children to participate in STEP and LEAP.
BCCS is the only full-service community school model in Minnesota, which focuses on the “whole child,” as Seth Ryan explained. Ryan is the director of community engagement, which includes community education and community schools. Ryan and Renee Starr, youth programs manager, are both excited about its potential impact on this school district and community.
STEP and LEAP are funded by the three-year 21st Century Community Learning Center federally funded grants program. Both programs are free to all families. The programs focus on academic support outside the school day, and include a spectrum of enrichment activities, leadership mentoring in the areas of math, music, college and career counseling, free snacks, an evening meal and transportation.
Before-and after-school programs are is extremely important to BCCS this year, as new start and end times at both district buildings will result in more families that need before-and after-school options.
“We believe that OST enhances the student experience in terms of what they get out of the normal school day,” explained Starr. “Research shows that easy access to out-of-school programs strengthens student and family relationships with their school,” said Ryan. “Attendance has been improved. Academic outcomes have been improved. Participation in extracurriculars have been increased. All positives for young learners.”
Community Schools Model
The Community Schools Model calls for the district to partner with professional providers outside the district to address the emotional, mental and physical needs of their students. It’s not unusual to see dentists, eye doctors and therapists providing free health screening and services inside Earle Brown Elementary STEAM (EBE) or at Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM (BCS).
Partners, now numbering around 20, include the North Star Boy Scout Council, the Girl Scout River Valleys region, the area YMCA, Timber Bay (a youth outreach organization based in Medina), Hennepin County Libraries and others. They are “helping us deliver important programming and enrichment programs,” said Starr. Partners deliver these services at the STEP 21 program at EBE and the LEAP 21 program at BCS.
These programs are affordable fee-based activities, giving students a unique opportunity to explore different specialized avenues of participation. Examples include the Explorers Club run through the Three Rivers Park District, sports camps, and “Not Your Run of the Mill Arts Camp,” all three hosted over the MEA break; plus a one-day Youth Cheerleading Clinic for grades 1-5, with a group performance scheduled for halftime at the BCHS football Homecoming game.
For adult learners
Adult enrichment activities, ages 16-95 or older, are hosted throughout the district. These include basic auto repair, sewing, mahjong and Spanish for travelers. There are also Senior Breakfasts, hosted bi-monthly at Earle Brown Elementary, 9:30-10:30 a.m. (Oct. 3, Dec. 12, Feb. 13 and April 9). Student performances are featured along with guest speakers. Cost is minimal at $2 per person.
This resource is located at 69th and Humboldt, offering Early Childhood Educational resources, clothing and food. Miamon Queeglay is the Community Schools Manager and runs this program.
Outside School Time
OST has been a longtime fixture at BCCS, but coordinators are certainly making an effort to take the program to a new level in serving students and families in the district. Community Education. Is making great improvements with youth and adult enrichment under Ryan’s and Starr’s leadership. They are both seeking greater input from the public—input in the form of different interest ideas for programming and services.
STEP 21 at Earle Brown Elementary STEAM is a free program for students in grades K-5 that combines academic rigor with enrichment opportunities, so all students have the opportunity to grow socially, emotionally and academically. The program is facilitated by licensed teachers and trained youth development professionals. Registrations are accepted on a first come first serve basis. Please make sure you register your student for their grade level section.
• Monday to Friday: Sept. 9 to May 22, 2:15-5 p.m. at Earle Brown Elementary STEAM. Snack and dinner are provided daily for all students
LEAP 21 offers opportunities for students in grades 6-12 to engage in fun educational experiences with licensed teachers as well as exciting enrichment opportunities with community partners and youth workers, all within areas of their own interest.
LEAP 21 is FREE for all registered BCCS students and is funded through a combination of a 21st Century Community Learning grant and Targeted Services.
• Sept. 23 to May 22
• Before-school program: Monday to Friday, 7:15-8:30 a.m.
• After school program: Monday to Thursday, 3:45-6 p.m.
• Location: Brooklyn Center Middle & High School STEAM North Campus
• Snack and a meal are provided for all participants
Brooklyn Center Community Education offers activities that allow youth to learn and grow while having fun.
• Youth Cheerleading Clinic
• Explorer’s Club
• Pour Paint Day
• Sports Camp
New BCCS start and end times outlined
The BCCS School Board approved new start and end times last spring for the BCCS school day for its nearly 2,200 students. Beginning with this school year, start and end times will change.
Two-tier bus system necessary
While creating the new schedule, it was important that the district maintain the two-tier bus system, meaning elementary students are not on the same routes as our middle and high school students. “We also knew it was important that changes be made at both sites so elementary students have a shortened school day; and middle and high school students start school later than the current schedule,” said Superintendent Dr. Carly Baker. The below table shows the new start and end times for Pre-K, Earle Brown Elementary STEAM (EBE), Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM (BCS), and the Early College Academy.
Impact at middle, high school
In the new schedule, the student school day for grades 6-12 students at Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM begins at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 3:20 p.m. at the south campus and 3:35 p.m. at north campus. Early College Academy students will also be in school from 8:45 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. and will be on the same schedule as BCS north and south campuses. ECA students receive special services at both campuses and need to maintain the same daily schedule.
No-cost after-school care considered
BCCS officials developed effective after-school programs that are available to families at no cost. Elementary students can register for STEP 21, an after-school program at EBE from 2:30-5 p.m. The STEP 21 program includes academic and enrichment activities, afternoon snack, evening meal and transportation home.
The district also offers a fee-based childcare program for grades PreK-5 students called Bright Start. Costs are $6 for the morning program and $15 for the afternoon session.
Starting with a hot breakfast
With the changes, BCCS Schools will offer a hot breakfast in the cafeteria for elementary students. In order for staff to best serve students, there needs to be two staggered bus drop-offs so there are two different breakfast times. The EBE cafeteria is not able to hold all students at the same time. Currently, students go directly to their classrooms when they arrive to school and have a pre-packaged breakfast in their classroom. The hot breakfast provides better nutritional options for students and a more sanitary learning environment.
Rod Shilkrot is a contributing writer for Sun Newspapers.