For years, Hesperia Unified elementary school students have been able to stay on after school in a supervised environment, eating healthy snacks, getting homework help and participating in group activities. When the new school year begins, the After School Educational and Safety program will still be there, but with a stronger academic focus.


The district is legally required to offer the after school program, according to Superintendent Mark McKinney, but the requirements tied to the state grant money that fund it have become stricter.


"We've had a long-term partnership with the Hesperia Recreation and Park District," he said. "However, the requirements of the program have become much more academic than they have before, and that's not really the park district's mission."


At their July 9 meeting, the school board gave the cold shoulder to a bid from Santa Ana-based Think Together, the largest provider of after school "extended learning" programs. The company provides services to the Victor Elementary School District, among others. The five-member board refused to even bring the contract up for a vote.


"I guess we're getting into the after-school program business," board president Chris Bentley said, as he was unable to get the board to vote on the bid.


"So now, my task is to design a program and, using the grant fund dollars, that truly is an academically focused program," McKinney said later. "That's the task before me, and I've got a relatively short period of time to accomplish it."


"I don't care what other school districts do; I care about the Hesperia school district," board member Eric Swanson said Friday. "I think we have the ability to set the bar for our students."


Almost 700 kids participated in the program on a daily basis more than the average HUSD elementary school's population spread across the district's elementary school sites.


The district will likely provide the service in-house, according to McKinney, who hopes to pursue additional grant money and eventually expand the program to the district's middle schools.


"Come Aug. 13, we will have a program," McKinney said.