Classes are in session every Wednesday at parks department

Starting on the first week of fall classes, elementary-aged students in the Bremerton School District will have a brand new opportunity to brush up on their ice skating, pool paddling and dodge ball skills.

The Bremerton Parks Department is teaming with the school district to provide a bunch of athletic activities for the little guys and girls on their early release days, every Wednesday throughout the school year.

It will be called Rec Jam.

Most school days throughout the year, the kids scoot out of school around 3 p.m., but on Wednesdays, classes end at 1:30 p.m.

“Rather than going home to watch the television, it gives them an opportunity to to blow off some steam from the day,” said Jim Spencer, director of Bremerton’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Each Wednesday, the school district will provide transportation for 150 students to the recreation wonderland area of East Bremerton.

There, the Kitsap YMCA, Glen Jarstad Aquatic Center and Bremerton Ice Arena lie within feet of each other.

The students will divide up in two groups — one that wants to go swimming and the other that want to lace up their skates.

They will have one hour to frolic around, before they they will be transported back to either Naval or Olympic View Elementary.

“The school district is very excited about partnering with the parks department on this,” said Joan Dingfield, community services coordinator.

“We have long felt we need to support more after school programs for students. It is very important for kids to be physically active. If you are not healthy physically you are not going to be successful in class.

The incidents of obesity are going up in the United States, Dingfield said. Additionally, she knows that kids are playing more video games and watching more television.

“We are very concerned they don’t get enough exercise,” she said.

Spencer said the children will be heavily supervised in the after school program, with a ratio of one parks employee to every 15 students.

He expects to hire a bunch of new employees for the program. The cost for an afternoon of fun should be around $10, which will cover the price of providing transportation, playthings and supervision.

When the Bremerton Ice Arena was built in East Bremerton, the city traded the land for 194 hours of free recreation time on the ice.

Although Spencer plans on using the free ice time for a variety of parks department programs, he says a large — yet still unspecified chunk — will be used for the after-school program.

Spencer is optimistic that it will be able to cover its costs because of the fact a similar program recently brought in the kids like flies on honey.

In January 2003, when Bremerton School District teachers bussed down to Olympia to protest ask for higher pay, the Parks department set up a program called Rec Jam at Mountain View Elementary School.

“One hundred and fifty signed up in three days,” Spencer said. “We had a waiting list to boot. There was an indication that there was a need.”

On that day, students got to play soccer, basketball, dodgeball, indoor floor hockey and run in relays.

Additionally, there was a bunch of crafts and games for students to do.

The early release program will probably offer the same activities, though Spencer said details and price are still being hashed out.

Sign ups for the program will begin on Aug. 20, with the first day probably commencing on Sept. 10.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for the parents too,” said Spencer.

Parents will probably have an easier time scheduling to pick up their kids, because they will be able to stick around at the two schools until 5:30 p.m.

Now it is countdown time until the registration period begins, and kids get a new opportunity to go out splashing and skating.

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