PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- For the first time in decades, Pasco County will offer an after-school program for middle school students.

River Ridge Middle in New Port Richey and Rushe Middle in Land O'Lakes will now offer a pilot program called Beyond the Bell.

It's an age group that could use one, parents and teachers alike say.

"We're trying create an environment that is good for this 'tween' age, sixth through eighth grade," said Mary Grey, director of after-school programs. "It's a safe place for them to come to. Plus it's kind of a club-type feel for them, where they want to come and bring their friends," she said.

A survey showed that parents think middle school students need a program like this for when the bell rings at the end of the day, prompting Pasco to start it this school year.

"It's definitely a program that parents are going to need," program manager Jessica Pages said. "There's a big-time gap with children being dismissed at 1:50 to parents getting home. There's time for children to get into trouble."

The pilot program will give students the chance to do things such as robotics, Zumba and get help with homework. Plus, it's a safe environment.

The program already has 50 students signed up. It runs each Monday through Friday until 6 p.m. Beyond the Bell may also expand to other schools next year.

For information on how to sign up, visit