A redesign of the Oakdale Junior High School after school program called “Oasis” is ready for students when school starts on Aug. 8.
Armida Colón, Director of Categorical Programs for the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, said that they have been planning and restructuring Oasis since March to debut it for this coming school year. She said the program now has clearly defined academic intervention, homework support, academies and clubs, and recreation. It was previously run by a teacher, a counselor, and other school staff. Now there will be a manager for the program who will oversee the academic component, the fiscal component, do programmatic planning, as well as content scheduling for academics.
Matt Dillon will step into the role as the Oasis Program Manager. He was previously the After School Program Manager at Fair Oaks Elementary School. He said that he’s looking forward to the change.
“I’ve been at the elementary level for four years at Fair Oaks,” Dillon said. “I’m excited to go to the junior high level. It’s a new challenge, a lot of work.”
Previously, Oasis was more of a drop-in program. It also had mandatory attendance for kids who played sports, Colón explained. Now, there will be quarterly enrollment times, and students won’t be required to register if they play a sport. It will also now have a limited capacity of 100 students. The first enrollment for the Oasis program will take place at the OJHS Round Up on July 31. Students must register every quarter if they wish to be in the program and, as before, the program is free to any student who’s interested. Oasis will run Monday through Friday from 2:25 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Colón said that they administered surveys to the students to drive the enrichment and recreation offerings. She said that the program is designed to truly reflect what the students want. Student surveys will be conducted twice per year in order to assess what to offer in the program.
“We want them to assume ownership of the program,” Colón said. “…They’ll drive the success of the program.”
She added that a new concept to the program will be academies. To start, there will be three academies – sports, art, and cooking. They, too, will run on a quarterly schedule and there could potentially be different academies or different criteria to the academies. For example, the cooking academy may remain, but one quarter it may focus on dessert baking and in another quarter it may focus on main meals.
Academies will be three days per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Colón said, and they will all culminate with a showcase at the end of each quarter. Tuesdays and Fridays will be “club days.” While the students will remain in their selected academy for 10 weeks, club days allow them more flexibility and they can go do other activities and interact with students in other academies.
“We’re trying to create activities that are designed for middle school students,” Dillon said, adding that they are also trying to incorporate field trips.
Some of the activities to be offered, which were driven by the student surveys, are woodworking, filmmaking, guitar lessons, iPad lab, martial arts, and more. A current OJHS staff member will give the guitar lessons but Colón said there’s also the potential to contract people from the community and volunteers to provide the lessons. She added that they want to build partnerships with the community. She said that they did a community assessment and looked at what was available from various businesses, non-profits, and individuals that could provide a service or meet a need for the program.
Oasis is a grant-funded program and has requirements for maintaining consistent attendance Monday through Friday from start to finish each day.
“We needed to really put a focus on building enrichment,” Colón said of some of the reasoning for redesigning the program. “The academic portion was well-supported and attended but after that portion in the first hour, the enrichment numbers were less.”
Dillon added that they are also considering having a student advisory board or council for the program. He said that he’d also like to start a clothing drive like the one he’d done at Fair Oaks. The community service aspect fits in with youth development, which is also part of the grant. He noted that what they do in the program is purposeful and intentional.
Dillon had talked about the revamped program to sixth graders during last school year to help promote it. He reported that he has been getting a lot of calls and e-mails over the summer from parents wanting more information about the program. He said that if the program fills up, a waiting list policy will be implemented similar to that used at the elementary programs and students can be added to the program as spaces become available.
Staffing of the program is also new, as in the past it was primarily staffed by teachers. Now certificated staff will be involved, but only in the academic portion of the program. The academies and recreation will be led by after school program staff, consisting of Dillon and four others.
Colón said that the OJHS principal, vice principal, categorical program support person, Dillon, and herself all visited Henshaw Middle School in Modesto to examine that after school program. They modeled the new Oasis program after the Henshaw program, with some modifications to fit Oakdale. She said that the director of after school programs at the Stanislaus County Office of Education was also helpful with the refinement, design, and content of the program.
Dillon’s move to OJHS creates some shuffling in the after school program staffing for the elementary schools. Jarom Hofmann will move from Cloverland’s after school program to take over at Fair Oaks and Kacie Contreras was promoted from being an after school program staff member to be the program manager at Cloverland.