After-school programs receive state grants

By Brittani Howell 812-331-4243 | Dec 29, 2016

The after-school programming for schools in the Monroe County Community and Richland-Bean Blossom districts will be getting a financial boost for the next four years, thanks to two 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program grants from the Indiana Department of Education.

MCCSC will receive $75,000, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington in Ellettsville, in partnership with R-BB, will get $262,000 in the 2017-18 school year, the first year of funding. The grants will continue each year in decreasing amounts for the following three years.

“It’s wonderful,” said Leslie Abshier, the club’s resource development director. “To us, it signifies a real investment in the Ellettsville community.”

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program provides support for out-of-school educational programming, particularly for low-income students and families. The grants allow centers to provide educational services such as tutoring, mentoring, service learning, recreational activities and other opportunities for academic and personal enrichment. It also provides for enrichment opportunities for parents and adult family members. If schools apply for the grant, they must show that at least 40 percent of their students participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program. More than $10 million in grant money was distributed to 57 organizations throughout the state this year.

The grant to the Boys and Girls Club will serve students at Edgewood Primary School and Edgewood Intermediate School, while the grant to MCCSC will serve students at Clear Creek Elementary.

The Boys and Girls Club will be relocating its organization into Edgewood Intermediate School in the 2017-18 school year, a move R-BB Superintendent Mike Wilcox announced at a board meeting shortly before Thanksgiving. In 2013, the school district was awarded a learning centers grant in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club and the local YMCA.

As part of the move, Abshier said, the club will be taking over some of R-BB’s afterschool activities, supplementing their in-class education with outside learning opportunities.

Abshier said that some of the funds will be spent on curriculum to help students “go deeper” in their subjects. The school district is working toward a corporation-wide science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) program, and Abshier said much of the after-school focus will be designed to enhance understanding in those subjects.

“It gives another layer on what they’re learning during the school day,” she said.

The partnership will double the number of children the club currently serves, Abshier said. Therefore, some of the grant money will be needed to hire and train more staff members to cope with the increase in participants.

It also will pay for off-site field trips, special guest instructors and professional development for teachers. Additionally, Abshier said, the grant funds will allow the club to create more family engagement activities, ideally conducting one per month.

“We have a strong partnership with R-BB already, but this is really going to enhance that partnership,” Abshier said.

In MCCSC, the learning centers grant will support the corporation’s EdVenture Camps, according to Laura Threlkeld, program director for MCCSC’s School Age Care department. It also will help supplement the after-school programming at Clear Creek Elementary.

Every elementary school in MCCSC has a fee-based extended-day program. A four-year learning centers grant received in 2014 currently supports after-school programs for MCCSC’s Title I schools: Arlington Heights, Fairview, Grandview, Summit and Templeton elementaries. In addition to supplies for after-school activities, the grant funding helps bring in a rotating cast of community partners for enrichment activities, including WonderLab, Bloomington Parks and Recreation, the Bloomington Playwright’s Project and more. It also provides for professional development for the extended-day staff members, helping them stay “on the cutting edge of after-school programs and activities,” Threlkeld said.

Additionally, students who qualify for free and reduced-price meal services at those schools can attend the after-school programming for free. The grant for those schools will continue through the 2017-18 school year. The grant for Clear Creek Elementary will have a slight overlap, beginning in the fall of 2017, and provide the same kinds of services.

“I was so excited, especially to bring Clear Creek into the programming funded by 21st Century,” Threlkeld said. “It’s going to open up opportunities for the families at that school to receive quality after-school care affordably — and by affordably, I mean potentially at no cost, if they qualify for those free and reduced meal services.”

Because the two grant periods overlap, the six Title I schools will not be covered by the incoming grant for Clear Creek. But the programs will be staying in place, Threlkeld said.

“We will continue to find ways and search out ways to continue to support our families the most affordable way possible, if those grants were to go away. It would just be searching for new funding sources,” she said.