The Town of Okotoks will be launching a pilot program next week to address community feedback for after school options.
The Okotoks Youth – Out of School program, beginning Sept. 16, will provide one-way bussing to the Okotoks Recreation Centre for youth in Grades 7 to 9 attending schools on the south side of town.
The program is the solution to community feedback the Town received in 2018, said Carey Gruber, youth and social development specialist for the Town.
“For those kids living on the south side of Okotoks, there are definitely some challenges for families in finding after school activities for their young people,” said Gruber. “Transportation obviously is a bit of a barrier here in Okotoks, especially when the weather gets really cold.”
The pilot program is the Town’s initial solution for youth and families.
The free shuttle bus — a full-sized Southland Transportation school bus identified with Okotoks Youth – Out of School signage — will be picking up from first from St. John Paul II Collegiate at about 3:45 p.m. and then Westmount School on Mondays and Thursdays.
The bus will arrive at the rec centre at approximately 4 p.m., where students can join the free Youth Open Gym that runs from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“(The open gym) program has been going on now for a year, and is really popular so we’re capitalizing on the popularity, the fact that it is a healthy, safe, supervised by staff, after school activity for youth,” said Gruber. “Providing this free bus shuttle should open the door for youth that live or go to school on the south side of Okotoks to more easily get here to participate.”
Students and families must arrange transportation home.
Gruber said the program is aiming to give students a healthy and safe place to go after school.
“We know that the critical hours, which are between the time that kids get out of school until parents get home, are the time that parents worry about,” she said. “The research tells us that it is the time when some youth may be engaged in activities or behaviours that are not super healthy and positive in terms of their well-being.
“So we want to provide this pilot project between now and Christmas to address that concern, give kids a safe and supervised place to be, so parents know that on Mondays and Thursdays youth in Grades 7 to 9 can catch this bus, come to the rec centre, and have some fun, burn off some steam after a day of school and be in a safe place.”
The Town will assess the usage of the service during the month of December, which will determine the continuation of the program.
For more information about Okotoks Youth – Out of School, contact the Youth Social Development Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.