With help from community organizations, the York City School District is moving forward with an ambitious plan to offer students an after-school program and a new support system this fall.
Together, three groups - the York County Community Foundation, the Women's Giving Circle and the United Way of York County - have donated more than $800,000 to fund five Communities In Schools coordinators for three years.
Communities In Schools calls itself "the nation's largest dropout prevention organization."
In York City, coordinators "will work directly with school administrators to provide students access to resources such as tutoring, family counseling, health services, college visits" and more, according to a news release from the community foundation.
"That person would almost be in the role as a social worker," said Tamara Willis, an assistant superintendent.
Willis said the district would like to have a coordinator in each of its eight schools but will start with coordinators at William Penn Senior High School and Jackson K-8. The coordinators will be full-time workers employed by Communities In Schools, she said.
At least one of the coordinators would also be tapped to staff a new after-school program the district has dubbed Second Shift.
That program, Willis said, is designed to do two things: offer teenagers activities in a safe environment between 3 and 9 p.m. and serve as an intervention program for teens picked up by police officers for "nuisance" crimes.
"We believe that if they had other places to go and other opportunities in the evenings, then maybe some of these nuisance crimes wouldn't necessarily happen," she said. "At least it would give the teens an option."
Willis said the district is looking to offer sports, games, tutoring, entertainment and arts activities.
For teens who do get into trouble, police officers would be able to use some discretion in determining whether to charge them with a crime or take them to Second Shift, said Michael Muldrow, chief of the district's new police department.
There, the teens would have access to counseling, food and academic help, Muldrow said.
"You would go straight from cruiser to counselor," he said.
Muldrow said he's interested in curbing the rates of youth violence and crime by offering teens an alternative - with the added benefit of sparing an over-burdened court system another petty crime to prosecute.
"What's the core issue that's putting these kids out in the streets to hustle and sell drugs?" he said. "If there's limited opportunities for adults, then there's definitely limited opportunities for kids."
Muldrow said he'd like Second Shift to offer students meals, laundry service and job opportunities.
District officials are planning to host Second Shift at the high school, 101 W. College Ave.
The fate of Second Shift depends on whether the district can secure at least $125,000 in funding, Willis said.
That amount of money would cover the cost of hiring a new police officer and two counselors for the program.
She said the district, with help from community partners, has submitted grant applications. Private donations could also help to close the gap, Willis said.
If the funding comes through, Second Shift could start in late September or early October, she said.
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