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Across the land, latchkey centers are springing up

Public libraries are finding themselves ``inundated with unsupervised children in the after-school hours,'' says Leah Lefstein, acting director of the Center for Early Adolescence at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Libraries are among the community institutions that have often become ``de facto latchkey centers,'' she explains. Churches, clubs, and schools have also felt the impact of working parents' desires to find some kind of supervised arrangement to fill the gap between the end of school and the end of the work day.

A number of model programs have sprung up over the years to address this need, and Mrs. Lefstein and colleague Joan Lipsitz, working with a grant from the Lilly Endowment, have put together a compilation of these, titled ``3:00 to 6:00: Programs for Young Adolescents'' (Center for Early Adolescence, University of North Carolina).

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Here's a quick sample:

Youth club at the Kenton Presbyterian Church, Portland, Ore. This small program, serving 30 to 40 youngsters a week from the surrounding low to moderate income neighborhood, is run by a small staff of volunteers on a budget of about $300 a year. Activities range from chess matches to basketball to discussions.

Girls Club of Rapid City, S.D. A full range of crafts and athletic programs is offered to some 1,000 girls. There's also career development for older participants. The main thing, according to club director Barbara Fierro, is giving youngsters an ``opportunity to know people who really care about what happens to them.''

Derby Community Education, Derby, Kan. Pioneered by high school English teacher Sondra Vedock, this program uses public school facilities to provide courses and activities for 6,000 of the town's 15,000 residents, including 5,000 youngsters. Offerings in the after-school hours zero in on the tastes and needs of children. Cost of the program is $100,000 a year. Participants are charged $1 per classroom hour.

Levels. The Great Neck, N.Y., public library converted an unused portion of its lower level into a gathering spot for the teen-agers of this well-to-do suburb of New York City. Kids can try computer programming, plan and stage a musical, or simply lounge and talk. They participate at any ``level'' they desire. Youngsters help run the program and have a say in the hiring of adult staff. The programs has about 300 ``regulars'' and hundreds of others who drop in occasionally.

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