I was walking through a department store the other day and noticed that the seasonal aisle had once again faded from barbeque tools and bulky patio furniture displays to school supplies and mountainous spiral notebook stack-outs.

Staring at it starkly, I pondered this harbinger of things to come. “Back to school already? But it feels like summer just started!” I exclaimed morosely to my wife.

Ten aisles and more than 20 minutes later, I had a sudden epiphany. My logic skills began to do the computations: “Back to school equals kids gone all day, equals peace and quiet, equals…” Hmm, maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all! It seems that after a month and a half of hearing my children iterate the same phrase, “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do here,” there is an end in sight.

Now is the time that many of us parents begin to think about school clothes, classroom supply lists, bus stop schedules and the like. Who will Billy’s teacher be this year? What elective is Suzie taking? What school picture packet should we order this time?

Of all the back-to-school needs your child has this year, the Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District has a solution to one of the most important: the need for a safe place to be after school.

The district offers a low-cost program called After School Adventure for children ages 6 through 12. This after- school camp offers kids the chance to work on homework, play outdoor games when the weather allows, explore various arts and crafts projects, swim a couple of times a week and get a healthy snack to tide them over until dinner time.

The program will be at Seaside Heights Elementary School this year, and transportation will be available for Gearhart Elementary School students. For parents’ convenience, day-off camps are available for school in-service days.

In addition to being a safe, fun and educational after-school program, there are a number of payment options and scholarships available, making it affordable, too. For a scholarship application and information, simply stop by the front desk at Sunset pool, 1140 Broadway. Parents can also take advantage of 10 percent savings on programs by signing up for monthly automatic withdrawal. The new SEPRD Program Guide has all the details, dates and costs associated with after- school care.

This school year, through a generous grant from the Oregon Community Foundation, middle school students can take part in a new after-school program. The program is designed to provide enrichment activities, such as tutoring math, science, English and other subjects as needed. Other activities include pottery, drumming, a boy’s council and a girl’s circle to name a few, with new activities being developed throughout the year. Activities will take place at the Seaside Youth Center, and students will get a healthy afternoon snack, too. Visit sunsetempire.com for all the details.

When I think of the transition from summertime to a new school year, I think of the school bus stop. An odd thing to think of perhaps, but I did spend almost 12 years standing in the same spot every morning in every type of weather— sunshine, rain, hail and even snow.

I remember the excitement to see who was at the bus stop each year, if there were any new kids and getting the chance to show off my new Sticky Finger bell-bottom jeans (that my mom had to hem for me). I would make my way down the street with my little sister in tow, exhaling slowly so I could see my breath in the morning air.

Yup, that was fall.

Darren Gooch is the IT and marketing manager for the Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District. District information is always available at sunsetempire.com or by calling (503) 738-3311. If you have questions for Darren or would like to suggest future topics, feel free to drop him an email at dgooch@sunsetempire.com.

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