Homework, academic assistance, physical activity and snacks offered

Thirty-nine schools and about 3,300 kindergarten- through eighth-grade students from throughout Merced County participate in the ASSETS program, which provides a number of activities after regular classroom hours.

May Moua, ASSETS coordinator for the Merced County Office of Education, said the $3.8 million program operates to at least 6 p.m. and in some cases to 6:30 p.m. Almost all of the county’s school districts participate.

The program, started in 2006, offers time to do homework, some academic assistance, particularly in language arts and mathematics, physical activity and a snack along with enrichment activities that follow certain themes, Moua said.

Cultures in the San Joaquin Valley was the theme for January. Other enrichment topics include space, technology and recycling, according to Moua.

In the Merced City School District, students have participated in ASSETS since 2007; 1,380 students are served at 12 elementary school sites. About 100 students are served per site and three middle schools serve about 60 students each, said Annie Dossetti, assistant superintendent for educational services.

Students are selected on a first-come, first-served basis and frequently there is a waiting list at the start of the school year, she said. Participating students report to the ASSETS staff immediately after school.

Students are provided a snack and then are allowed an hour to complete homework. Additional time is allotted for academic support, enrichment and physical activities, all supervised by ASSETS staff. The student-to-staff ratio is 20 to 1, Dossetti said.

Elena Castro, the district’s curriculum and compliance director, praised the ASSETS program.

“ASSETS is a valuable program for working families, especially,” Castro said. “Knowing one’s child is in a safe, supervised environment that values learning, during a period of time when many parents are still at work, is a great comfort.”