- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - When the cat’s away, the mice will play. Or so the saying goes.

It’s the same story for juvenile school students. Unsupervised after-school hours can lead to a number of problems, including criminal activity.

Information from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention points to a national spike in juvenile crime at the end of the school day.

The trend has been noticed here as well.

“If there is any time that there is going to be an uptick in contact, it is going to be after school,” said Laramie County Sheriffs’ Department Capt. Linda Gesell.

The department runs patrols through heavily populated areas after school, she said.

“We understand that parents can’t always be there. (But) it would be ideal to have kids come home to a responsible adult,” she said. “We know that’s not ideal for every household.”

That time tends to be a period when students aren’t as supervised, she said.

“Most law enforcement has been aware of that time - right after school and during the summer,” Gesell said.

But law enforcement agencies aren’t the only ones paying attention to that afternoon window, according to officials at several local programs.

The Boys and Girls Club originally was started with the goal of providing a place for students who were seen roaming the streets, said Baylie Evans. She is the Cheyenne club’s resource development and marketing coordinator.

“We call them the ‘danger hours,’” she said. “Parents are still working, so (the students) are left to fill their own time.”

While some young people can be responsible and focus on what they need to do, others may spend the time “in front of a screen” or looking to the wrong influences, Evans said.

“They’re looking to their peers for influence, and that’s not always the best influence,” she added. “So if we can be here for those hours when kids don’t necessarily have a good role model, that’s what we’re here for.”

The club offers structure to students, as well as a place to get homework done or take part in activities, she said.

“No matter what they choose (at the club), it’s still a good choice,” she said. “If they were to go home or to a friend’s house, there are all kinds of options for a poor choice.”

The club runs to 7 p.m. and is open to students ages 6 to 18. It caters to about 500 young people in Cheyenne, but it is looking to expand enrollment when ongoing facility work is finished.

But this is not the only program in Cheyenne that offers students something to do after school before parents may get home.

Other programs include before-and after-school programs at the YMCA and the after-school or latchkey program with the city of Cheyenne.

City After-school Program coordinator Cyndi Sullivan said, “(We) provide a safe place to kids after school where they have caring adults who can help with homework or provide physical activities for them,”

The program is for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and runs after school until 5:45 p.m.

It is focused on that age group, Sullivan said, because junior high or older students are offered sports and activities through their schools or other programs.

“There’s always a need for after-school care (with) both parents working and not wanting to leave kids home unsupervised,” she said.

The numbers of students in the program have grown in recent years, she added.

Laramie County School District 2 runs a free after-school program for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, Burns Elementary Principal Jerry Burkett said.

The program, called ALEX, ensures that students can get help with homework or don’t go home to an empty house. ALEX stands for Academy of Learning Extension.

“The kids here in ALEX are working on homework, on reading and math skills,” Burkett said. “Things that Mom and Dad would help them with, we’re working on them here. So when they go home, mom and dad can have quality time with them.”

While at ALEX, students can get help from certified staff, get work done, read or spend time brushing up on computer skills.

The programs are located at two of the district’s four elementary schools - Burns and Pine Bluffs - but they are open to students from any elementary, Burkett said.

“It provides a service to the community where we know the kids will be safe and provided for after school,” he said.


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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