The Riverhead After School Child Active Learning program, better known as RASCAL, will not return in the fall after nearly 35 years of service to the Riverhead school district.
The after-school program is now dissolved and will be replaced with SCOPE Education Services. RASCAL helped students complete their homework, fed them with snacks and provided them with fun after school activities.
“RASCALs served this community in many wonderful ways for decades,” interim superintendent Christine Tona said of RASCAL’s ending.
RASCAL was founded in 1986 after a survey of teachers, administrators and families found that the school district wanted an afterschool program, according to early RASCAL employees. The program was funded partially through a grant by Cornell Cooperative Extension and started at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School for grades K-4, and later expanded to grade 5.
“I’m extremely proud of what we did,” said Carole Kirchhoff, a former teacher who joined the program in 1998 and leaves as the program’s director. “We helped families with homework, we helped kids with socialization and families knew that their children were safe. They knew that they were engaged in activities that were age appropriate and fun.”
Kirchhoff and Laura Feuerman, a former teacher who joined in 1991 and leaves as the program’s bookkeeper, considered the RASCAL program a service to their community and the children in the school district.
“It was a program that I appreciated because it seemed to be started by mothers for their children,” Feuerman said. “You can’t really have a great time at work if you’re worried about how your children are doing at home.”
Families paid for the program through tuition based on their income and how many times students attended. Sometimes families couldn’t make payments, but the program would look the other way, Kirchhoff said.
Kirchhoff and Feuerman estimate that around 1,200 to 1,500 children have been helped by RASCAL. They said Riverhead’s diverse population was reflected in the program and they take pride in having helped expose kids to different experiences and helping them to grow.
“We had students who had some issues with behavior. We worked out plans for them. We worked with families and we became an extended family for those families. And that was the best part of it,” Kirchhoff said.
Although Kirchhoff and Feuerman are upset that they won’t be returning to run the program in September, they still feel immense pride for the program’s legacy.
“We did a good job — and we made a positive mark on Riverhead and families,” Kirchhoff said. “That’s the most important thing. That’s the best gift that I could ever have from anyone.”
As for Riverhead’s new care program SCOPE, Kirchhoff and Feuerman said that some former RASCAL workers are applying to be employed by SCOPE to continue to serve the community.
“We needed to establish an entirely independent morning and afternoon care program and SCOPE has been providing expansive and comprehensive programs for districts all across Suffolk and Nassau for many years,” Tona said. “We are hopeful that many of the same talented and skilled individuals on Mrs. Kirchhoff’s team will become part of the SCOPE programs.”
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