By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Some local high school students have set up an after-school tutoring service, with the aim of helping out kids whose families can’t afford high-priced tutors.

Owen Kaplan is the founder of Accessible Tutors, a tutoring service he runs with other high school students. The service is offered as a program with HackNCraftNJ, a nonprofit that encourages community building through collaboration.

Kaplan is a junior at Montclair High School. He started tutoring other students when he was in eighth grade. By his sophomore year, he was spending three to six hours a week tutoring.

“But I also felt like I’m feeding into the system that they’re always talking about,” Kaplan said. That system, he said, was the achievement gap; students whose families have the money and resources to afford expensive tutoring services and other aids are likely to outperform their peers whose families can’t afford tutoring.

And there is a lot of emphasis in Montclair on getting top grades and getting into top colleges, he said. “I think this town is really a pressure cooker for kids.”

Besides the for-profit services, there are several tutoring nonprofits in the Montclair area, including IMANI and Succeed2gether.

Accessible Tutors now has a 26 tutors. Most are Montclair High School students, but there is at least one who attends Montclair Kimberley Academy.

The focus is on working with middle school students.

Some students come to Accessible Tutors for help because they are struggling with a certain subject. Others may be A students, but their parents want them to get an extra edge. “There’s a whole variety of things,” he said.

Math is the most in-demand subject, Kaplan says. “You know, most kids really don’t like math so they kind of need the extra push.” After math, the most frequent request is general assistance with study habits and project planning.

The service is pay-what-you-can; some families who do have the resources pay extra so that the service can support a less-advantaged student.

Kaplan said that Accessible Tutors has done a good job of reaching out to students for whom finances are an issue; the service got several new students after the principal of Renaissance Middle School mentioned it in a newsletter to parents. But there is a lot more to be done, Kaplan said.

“We found some of them, but we have room for more,” he said.