Ocean City Today

SDMS spotlights afterschool programs during open house

Celebrating two decades in operation, school highlights community partnerships
By Brian Gilliland | Nov 09, 2017
Photo by: Brian Gilliland Stephen Decatur Middle School eighth graders Skylar Cook and Mackayla Barrett avail themselves of the cotton candy provided by the school during its 20th anniversary open house last Thursday.

(Nov. 10, 2017) Parents, students, current and former teachers and staff pulled out all the stops during Stephen Decatur Middle School’s 20th anniversary open house last Thursday night.

Also basking in the ceremonial glow were the accomplishments of its 15-year-old afterschool programs and community partnerships.

“We’re highlighting our accomplishments and reinforcing the message that learning doesn’t end with the bell,” Principal Lynne Barton said. “We’re active and involved with a number of community organizations.”

Members of several of those organizations, like the Worcester County Health Department, Ocean City Surf Club and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, were present at the open house and set up in the cafeteria, showcasing the impact the student body has had on their organizations.

Barton said the school teamed with the other organizations as a matter of necessity to offer afterschool activities. Where other county schools receive grants to provide programs, Stephen Decatur Middle School chooses instead to work with local groups.

“The centerpiece of tonight’s activities is our afterschool program. We have academic and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] courses, and it’s great that our kids are eager to learn, but we also have community-focused programs as well,” she said.

In all, 247 or nearly half of Stephen Decatur Middle School’s 655 students participate in the afterschool programs, according to Vice Principal Theresa Tarpey, who manages the programs.

“The afterschool programs are a safe environment that engages students emotionally, socially, academically and physically,” she said. “It also allows students to explore avenues not covered in traditional subjects.”

The benefit works both ways, Tarpey said, because the teachers could also engage in some of their own passions, while introducing the topics to students.

One teacher has a passion for poetry and could offer students a more in-depth look than what might be traditionally available through the regular curriculum, she said.

Poetry, jazz and drama presentations were offered and demonstrations of learning-software and service programs were shown.

The entire school was opened for exploration, with exhibitions scattered throughout. It wasn’t all business though, as visitors and participants gathered around a campfire making s’mores at the rear of the building, while nearly 100 people gathered in the courtyard to listen to the jazz band play.

“We also have some retired teachers back tonight to help celebrate,” Barton said. “Everyone who comes here keeps a connection to the school.”

Connections she expects to continue.

“I think our goal is to continue on the path we’re on with academic success. I think we’re positioned very well to see all kids grow to become college- and career-ready,” she said.

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