Mayor Bill De Blasio has now shifted his focus from tots to tweens.

“Learning shouldn’t stop when the school bell rings…” said Mayor de Blasio. “We’re making headway in providing our young adults with an engaging and supportive environment that will keep our kids off the streets and out of trouble between the hours of 3 and 6 PM.”

De Blasio has devoted $145 million to make after school programs more widely available to students between 6th and 8th grades at school based sites. It is the largest expansion of after school for middle school students in the city’s history, and he hopes it will help young people to succeed.

This year, the number of seats has nearly doubled to more than 71,000 and the city expects the total number to exceed 78,000 during the course of the school year. As of last week, there were less than 50 percent of slots open. They expect the program to be completely full by the end of September.

The programs success will be dependent upon after-school facilitators fulfilling their enrollment goals and providing high-quality program. The nonprofit organizations facilitating afterschool need to ensure a 75 percent attendance rate for 324 hours or required structured program activity and 100 percent enrollment throughout their contract period with the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). 

The expansion has increased the cost of each participating student to $3,000 from $2,100  in order to cover additional hours and enable providers to hire and retain qualified staff. Unlike the efforts used to get people to sign up for pre-k, the city’s approach was different for encouraging students to sign up.

“Pre-K kids are under the control of their parents, so all of the messaging was toward their parents,” said Mark Zustovich, Chief Public Information Officer of the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). “But children at ages 12-13 are still kind under their parents, but are becoming their own consumers, so you have to appeal to them differently.”

Middle schoolers were given flyers about School’s Out New York City (SONYC pronounced sonic), the newest kind after school program. School sites also promoted the program over the summer and reached out to former students who may have had eligible siblings.

For the most part, student have been enrolling themselves into programs online. The expansion has peaked their interest because its more time with friends participating in programs that are sometimes guided or independent learning activities.

 Policy analyst thought it was too early to comment on what kind of impact the effort will have on state exams.

“As for state testing prep, it will vary provider by provider whether they choose to do prep for State Exams (grades 6-8) during after school time,” said  Zustovich. “They are not required.”