After-school care is a lifesaver for many parents — and enriching for kids — but finding quality, convenient and affordable care for your kids isn’t always so simple. Read on for our essential after-school how-to. 

Courtesy YMCA

Portland Public Schools’ (PPS) after-school programming is not a one-stop shop. Upwards of 10 licensed child care providers serve more than 50 schools. 

While this can be confusing, Nancy Hauth, Student Success Program Manager for the Early Learners Department at PPS explains why. “If we had just one partner organization, serving over 50 schools, we would be at a disadvantage if the partner organization closed, reduced their capacity or wasn’t providing quality care.” 

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While having so many service providers gives schools and parents a wider safety net, it also makes it harder for parents and caregivers to understand their after-school care options. Compounding this problem is that on-site after-school programs fill up — often quickly — leaving families scrambling. 

We break down the after-school programs offered in Portland, including tips for what to do if you don’t get a coveted spot. Plus, other options for convenient after-school care.

After-School Programs 

Courtesy Friendly House

These programs all take place on the elementary campuses listed below unless otherwise noted. See pps.net/childcare.  

Art4Life. This after-school program focuses on arts and culture. Typical after-school activities include exploring music, theater, visual arts, literature, cuisine and movement.  Art4Life serves four area schools: Abernethy, Richmond, Winterhaven and Access Academy. $170-$470 a month.

Camp Fire Columbia. This program provides programming that promises to support academic achievement, build social and life skills, foster community engagement, and develop career and college readiness. Camp Fire serves eight area schools: Beverly Cleary, Creative Science, Hayhurst, James John, Peninsula, Rose City Park, Sunnyside and Woodlawn. $296-$455 for three to five days.

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Champions. Champions, owned by KinderCare, is based on early childhood education principles. The program focuses on building social-emotional skills, executive functioning skills and inquiry-based learning. Champions works with 32 Portland schools within PPS as well as outside: Astor, Atkinson, Bridger, Bridlemile, Buckman, Capitol Hill, Cesar Chavez, Cherry Park, Cottonwood School of Civics and Science, Creston, The Emerson School, Earl Boyles, Gilbert Heights, Gilbert Park, Harrison Park, Hartley, Kelly, Lee, Le Monde French Immersion, Menlo Park, Prescott, Rieke, Rockwood Preparatory, Russell, Margaret Scott, Shaver, Skyline, St. Rose, Ventura Park, Whitman, Woodmere and Woodstock. Cost varies by location and runs from $40-$56 for one or two days per week to $80-$102 for three plus days per week.

Friendly House. Serving Chapman Elementary only, Friendly House is a nonprofit community center and social service agency. It provides after-school care on a sliding scale, which includes art, science, homework help, field trips and play.

Kids Community Learning Center. This program offers homework help, activities  and an assortment of clubs, including music lessons. KCLC is available to students at the Metropolitan Learning Center, Access Academy, Ainsworth, Chapman and Emerson. $115-$415 per month for one to five days.

Neighborhood House.This organization’s after-school program includes homework help, art, sports and other enrichment. Neighborhood House serves Boise, Chief Joseph, MLK Jr. and Sabin elementary schools. $244-$399 per month for two to five days.

Portland Jewish Academy. Balancing teacher-led and child-initiated activities, the program offers activities based on weekly or monthly themes. PJA offers services at Portland Jewish Academy, and transports students from the Odyssey Program at East Sylvan. Students from other schools are welcome but will not be transported. $191-$570 a month for one to five days.

YMCA. A variety of fun activities are included to help children develop their academic and social skills. YMCA reaches 14 schools in Portland, and more in surrounding areas: Alameda, Arleta, Beach, Faubion, Grout, Laurelhurst, Lenox, Lewis, Llewellyn, Marysville, Rigler, Scott, Vernon and Vestal. $380-$526 a month.

Several schools have programs unique to their individual schools. Often, these programs are led by parents of families enrolled in the program. These include:

Ainsworth Child Care Association, $390-$503

Duniway All Stars, $55-$720 (drop in to five days)

Irvington Extended Day, $224-$316 (three to five days) 

Markham Children’s Care Association, $247-$339 (two to four days) 

Stephenson Child Care Association, $85-$425.

Waitlist Tips

Courtesy Kids Community Learning Center

Not everyone can get into their school’s onsite after-school program. And COVID staffing shortages have made the problem worse. If you get on the waitlist, here are some tips: 

  • Once you’re on the waitlist, don’t get off! Follow up with the provider a few times before school starts to see if they might open up more slots. Encourage other parents to do the same. If there’s need, space and staffing, the program may expand to serve more families.
  • Look into programs that pick up kids for after-school enrichment opportunities (see below).
  • Coordinate carpooling with other parents to offsite programs.

Schools Uniting Neighborhoods

SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) Community Schools are full-service neighborhood hubs funded by Multnomah County. They offer after-school programs, instruction, enrichment, extracurricular activities and more. Many SUN programs also have a food pantry onsite, as well as connections to health and mental health services. Unlike other after-school programs, SUN is not a licensed day care provider. Instead, it is an anti-poverty initiative. There are 92 community schools across six school districts, with elementary and K-8 making up 62 of those sites. Most SUN programs are offered at no cost. Those sites that do charge fees provide opportunities for low-income families to attend for free. Multco.us/sun.

Programs that Pick Up

A number of programs pick up from local schools and provide after-school enrichment off-campus.  

Courtesy Trackers

Atlas Immersion Academy. Atlas offers after-school programming in French or Spanish. It picks up from Hayhurst, Ainsworth and Le Monde, and transports children to Atlas Gabriel Park.

Trackers. Get the Trackers camp experience in an after-school program. The nature-first program picks up from Abernethy, Buckman, Duniway, Grout, Llewellyn, Portland Forest School, Richmond and Winterhaven. $32-$36 a day.

Belmont Academy. This program offers snacks, free time, art projects, games and homework assistance. Belmont Academy picks up from Arthur Academy, Buckman, Glencoe and Richmond. $340-$450 a month.

NW Adventure Co. This program provides kids with adventurous nature-based activities at local parks. Serving Ainsworth, Alameda, Beach, Beverly Cleary, Chief Joseph, Rose City Park and Scott. $30/day.

One With Heart. This martial arts program picks up from Atkinson, Glencoe and Richmond. $699 a month.

Portland Parks & Recreation. The SOAR and LEAP enrichment programs provide transportation to local community centers. Serves children from Astor, Boise-Eliot, Cesar Chavez, James John, Peninsula, Rosa Parks and Sitton elementary schools. $175 a month. The Pay What You Can discount is applicable to these programs.

Portland Metro Arts After School Art Club (ASAC). ASAC gives kids opportunities in music, theater, dance and visual arts. Pick up from Atkinson, Bridger, Cherry Park, Creative Science, Glencoe, Harrison Park, Laurelhurst, Portland Arthur Academy, Rose City Park and Vestal. $48-$210.

Sellwood Community House. Kids can choose from numerous classes including cooking, art and science. Serves Duniway and Llewellyn. $115-$660.

After-School Enrichment

Courtesy Chess Wizards

Back in the day, Peachjar flyers helped Portland families find after-school activities for their kids on campus and off. Because of equity issues, that program has stopped. But many schools still offer after-school classes for art, basketball, yoga and other activities on school campuses. Some organizations that typically provide on-campus enrichment are:

Chess Wizards. You’re never too young to learn chess! Offered at approximately five sites. $160-$240 per multi-week session.

Mad Science Kids. learn science while having fun during on-site enrichment classes at 60 area schools. $200 per multi-week session.

New Moon Productions. Budding thespians learn drama literacy and put on an end-of-session show. Serves approximately five schools. $100 per multi-week session. 

PDX Reign Basketball Academy. Learn how to play basketball or hone your skills. Currently offered at ten local schools. $145-230 for a nine- to 14-week season.

Yoga Playgrounds. Yoga classes are offered at ten local elementary schools. Session rate varies based on the number of weeks offered. 

Check in with your PTA, PTO or school office to learn if your school offers on-site enrichment programming. 

In addition, you can check PDX Parent’s After-School Guide. While many of these are not offered on school grounds, you may be able to figure out carpooling to make these options sustainable for your family.

Ali Wilkinson
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