Sounds of the playground are back with the return of after school sports programs at Detroit Public Schools. Soccer and flag football instruction and games for kindergarten through second graders are part of the roll-out of activities this fall.
“Kids who participate in extra curricular typically have better academic achievements than kids who don’t and that goes from middle school all the way up to high school,” said Ed Tomlin, DPS director of athletics for grades K-8. “That’s part of the attraction we want to bring back to DPS to make this a first class district and be able to compete with all the competition we have now days for our students.”
It’s a battle DPS has been losing.
Enrollment this fall is just over 49,000 but the decrease of only 860 students from last year is a victory of sorts for the district. DPS had faced 10 percent enrollment declines each of the last 17 years down from a total of nearly 183,000 students during the 1997-98 school year.
On Detroit’s west side, Christina Smith’s son, Chauncey, is playing flag football at Bates Academy. “I allowed him to pick which one he wanted and he is always excited to come to practice as well as play in the games,” Smith told Detroit 2020.
She has enjoyed cheering on her son. “Oh, I love it I love it, I love it,” Smith exclaimed.
Music and art programs are also part of the initiative for elementary and middle school students but for now, the fresh air, exercise and camaraderie are enough for Onnie McSpadden.
“Mostly I don’t think football is just for winning,” said the first grade student. “It’s just for having fun.” When asked by a reporter if he was having fun, McSpadden immediately said, “yeah!”
DPS officials say it’s only the beginning. Financial support from the United Auto Workers union and Ford Motor Company helped re-launch the program. The district is also seeking more corporate partners. Additional program offerings will be made to students during the winter.
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