The grant, offered through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, supports the creation of community learning centers providing academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty or low-performing schools.
Munford Elementary, Sycamore Elementary and Winterboro High schools initially received funding through the grant when it was awarded in October 2010 under a different set of criteria and rules.
Sallie Chastain, community education and electronic curriculum coordinator for the board, reapplied for the grant and added A.H. Watwood Elementary School to the list of schools benefiting from the grant money.
“Had we not applied according to the new guidelines, we would have not been considered at all,” Chastain said. “It is a brand new grant to us. Previously, the grant had a different area of emphasis and several components that were previously required are no longer required.”
According to Chastain, mid-year and annual reports are kept documenting the use of grant funds and the overall impact of the programs created by using the fund.
Some of the programs and initiatives offered include before-school, after-school and summer-school enrichment activities, summer field trips, expanded library hours, additional project-based learning assistance, opportunities to work with different teams of students and many more activities.
The grant funds help pay for the staff provided to run any of the programs or initiatives in place, and provide snacks for the students participating in the programs.
The programs also seek to achieve parental involvement through offering physical fitness activities for parents and students, guest speakers from local agencies offering safety and information, homework assistance and other community-enhancing initiatives.
Chastain maintained the primary goal of the grant is to show academic improvement and growth.
“You hope that students are better prepared for class each day and you hope students will enjoy school more because they’re better prepared,” Chastain said. “They can see school can be (so much) fun beyond the regular classroom day that learning continues after hours.”
Successful implementation of grant funds enables Chastain to request continuation of the grant for up to three years, raising the maximum value of funds brought to the schools to $600,000.