On Sunday, November 7, 2010, at 2:00 a.m., DARK:30 becomes a reality for after-school. DARK:30 will last until March, when once again the sun will shine on program all the way to the end. But for the next few months, with DARK:30 moving slowly into the afternoon, we will see program shorten for some students (at least those who walk home and often those who have bus transportation as well), and we will rearrange schedules to accommodate this phenomena. When DARK:30 arrives I always wish that we somehow lived closer to the equator where days would remain reasonably the same daylight length all year.
For those of you who are new to after-school, you may legitimately be wondering, “What’s the big deal? So time is changing and it will be dark a little earlier!” The big deal is the attitude or mindset change that happens when the sun goes down which sends out the alert that youth need to be home before dark, and certainly before the evening chill takes hold. Since birth we have learned that darkness can be fraught with danger and that light brings comfort (consider how lights are always turned on when we come to the assistance of an infant). And we have all seen pictures of families “cuddled up” around the fireplace in the winter drinking hot chocolate and eating popcorn. Warm matters! So, families want youth home before dark.
In California, even the After School Education and Safety Program legislation in Ed Code 8483 (a) (1) recognized the power of DARK:30, and specifies the need for an Early Release Policy that will accommodate all manner of locally identified needs for leaving early, including other conditions, especially safety, as prescribed by the school day administration. Some programs have identified the need for students who walk home, alone or with another, to leave the program 20-30 minutes before sundown, which means even earlier in mid-December as the days continue to shorten, to ensure safe passage. Others have determined that bus transportation will need to leave earlier to ensure that all students arrive home in the daylight, and/or that a parent be there to meet them at the bus stop to guarantee a safe transition from program to home.
So, DARK:30 is just around the corner. Be sure to advise parents and students of your plans if you haven’t already. Alter your schedule to include outdoor activity earlier in the program day. Remember, safety and supervision are key to a high quality after-school program, so safely addressing DARK:30 moves to the front burner when time changes next Sunday.