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Schools get BIG grant to help learning

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By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE -Two local schools will get a jump start in the 21st Century with an assist from the U.S. Department of Education.

Brooks and Crossroads Elementary both received federal funding from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant provided in conjunction with the USDE.

The funding amounts to $637,000 for each school to implement for up to five years, with three years of funding guaranteed.

Grant money must be implemented toward programs and strategies that promote health and wellness along with a family education component, including parental involvement.

Bullitt County Public Schools district grant writer Juliann Vachon said each school prepared and submitted a separate grant request.

“I let (the schools) know this was out there,” Vachon said. “I knew it had the potential to help hundreds of kids.”

Vachon said each school would receive a guaranteed three years worth of funding, followed up with an additional two years if the school can show the funding is being properly implemented.

According to Vachon, the grant money could serve students and their families in after-school or even before-school programs.

“Part of the grant is that they want a family literacy component,” she said. “(Schools are) increasing student achievement but also emphasizing on health and wellness.”

Vachon said the grant money could also be used to create a new school position designed to focus on such components.

“Each grant allows the school to hire a full-time coordinator,” she said. “That will really help with fulfilling the implementation.”

Brooks principal Cheri Lineweaver said the 21st Century grant was geared toward, but not limited to, students on free and reduced lunch programs. She felt the school could implement ideas for everyone regardless.

“We’ll provide academic-driven and Compass Learning-driven programs,” said Lineweaver. “We’ll be able to hire a coordinator and an assistant for the programs.”

An example Lineweaver presented was the Brooks Aviation program, allowing experts to meet with students. Educational field trips were a possibility, along with tying the program to various education topics and academic programs.

“This programs require attendance,” Lineweaver said. “Students write contracts with parents to commit to it.”

Lineweaver said the parental component of the grant was a primary focus. One example of grant funding implementation was sponsoring evening programs teaching English to Hispanic families within the school.

“The Hispanic population is growing in our area,” she said. “(The grant) will pay for someone to teach those families.”

Brooks is developing a school grant committee to develop further program ideas. Early possibilities included science programs and a LEGO club. Lineweaver said building with LEGO pieces featured science, English and math components.

“This grant is going to provide us with funding for quality and academic enrichment programs for students,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to bring these programs to our kids.”

More excitement is also being planned at Crossroads in an effort to increase the school’s community-friendly location.

“We hope to offer more programs after school hours that could allow more people to visit and take advantage,” said principal Kim Sego. “We hope to provide more one-on-one resources rather than programs.” 

Sego and a group of 10 staffers collectively worked with Vachon on Crossroads’ successful grant effort.

“We just brainstormed ideas asking each other what we could get with this grant if we received it,” she said. “We discussed what we could do for our community.”

Sego said the school’s first plan was expanding upon existing programs featuring health and wellness issues.

“We have a fitness club that we host once a week,” she said. “Our hope is to expand that to at least three days a week.”

Sego said the school planned to expand its gardening club that normally meets around the summer months.

“We can expand this by not just growing but how to prepare meals,” she said. “We can offer more real-life skills.”

A key to success for Sego was making certain parental outreach remained part of each school program.

“We like to open doors to parents while working with their kids,” Sego said. “For example, we can allow them to use our school computers if they are taking college courses.”

Once existing programs are strengthened the Crossroads staff will implement new ways to educate students and their families together.

“I’m pleased for the opportunity,” said Sego. “Our kids are going to be the winners.”