21st Century Learning Grant for Winston County Schools expanding opportunities

Shown are a few of the pre-K students in the Addison Elementary School After-School Program. From left, Branson Traynom, Ryder Roberson, Amelia Woodard and Anslee Massey. Working with them are Rena Parris, left, site coordinator and AES Principal Sharon Naylor.

ADDISON    - After-school programs have either been brought back, formed  or enriched at four schools in the Winston County Schools system, thanks to $4 million spread over the next five years through the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.
The grant  provided $80,000 to restart the after-school program at Addison Elementary School, as well as begin new programs at Double Springs Middle School and Double Springs Elementary, according to educators.
Lynn Elementary School, which already had an after-school program, also received $80,000 to continue and further enrich its program educators added.
Administered through the U.S. Department of Education, these after-school programs represent a significant investment in providing expanded learning opportunities for children outside regular school hours, said Jennifer Baker, elementary curriculum director for Winston County Schools.
The funding serves as a lifeline for the county’s after-school programs, covering such essential aspects as staff salaries, materials, supplies and facilitation of diverse learning activities, Baker explained.
“The breadth of offerings with the 21st CCLC After-School Program is staggering,” Baker pointed out, “reflecting a commitment to holistic development beyond academic pursuits alone.”
The program offers such interests as robotics, dance, culinary arts and photography, Baker said.
“This rich tapestry of activities not only broadens their horizons, but also fosters a sense of creativity and curiosity that extends well  beyond the confines of the traditional classroom,” Baker said.
The grant was awarded to AES in November, 2023, but the after-school program at AES was not fully implemented until several weeks ago, stated AES Principal Sharon Naylor.
Years ago, Addison Elementary was funded for an after-school program through 21st Century, but  program requirements changed drastically and the program was discontinued,  Naylor said.
“This is the first year in probably 20 years we have had an after-school program,” Naylor said. “We’re still working on it, getting new enrollments and getting that program set up.”
Requirements for the after-school program, which helps students from pre-kindergarten all the way to 6th grade, include tutoring, academics, as well as enrichment programs, noted Rena Parris, site coordinator for the after-school program.
The program operates five days a week. The GAP program is for pre-kindergarten students from 2:15-3 p.m., Parris said.
“If a pre-K student has a sibling that is enrolled in K-6, pre-K can come from 2:15 to 3,” Parris said. The programs are held in the Addison Elementary library, employees stated.  
From 3-5 p.m., students in grades kindergarten through 6th grade attend the after-school program, based at the library, but often divide into separate classroom areas for more individualized group instruction, Parris added.
Currently, 35 students from pre-kindergarten through 6th grade are enrolled in the AES after-school program, Naylor said.
“We wrote the grant to have up to 75 students,” Naylor stated.  “But we sign up one to two every day,” she added. “As those numbers grow, we’ll need more volunteers because there is a student/teacher ratio or volunteer/student ratio of 1 to 12 (or one teacher or volunteer for every 12 students).”
“There are some requirements,” Naylor continued. “They have to have so many minutes a day of tutoring, as far as academics, but then they do enrichment programs for about an hour each day. That’s what we’re implementing right now.”
Since the second segment of the after-school program has such a wide span of ages, teachers and volunteers who work with the program are diligent to make sure the interests, and attention span, of each age group is captured, Parris pointed out.
This, she added, is where engagement comes into play, where students are busy doing hands-on projects or learning a skill from a volunteer from the community.
Lower grade levels will be working on letter sounds, blending and beginning reading skills, according to educators.

Volunteers, food needed for program

Currently, four certified teachers are working with the program, but more volunteers are needed, educators emphasized.
“Our classrooms can do the academic pieces because they are certified and they can teach the students,” Naylor stressed. “What we need are more volunteers to help as far as the enrichment pieces.”
These volunteers can come and teach any type of skill, from how to play the guitar to learning other music skills, as well as certain hobbies or talents, such as photography, archery, needlepoint, etc.,  educators stated.
“We need more people to come in and complete those enrichment pieces,” Naylor emphasized.
The funding that each of the affected schools receives for the after-school program includes salaries for teachers and supplies, but does not cover food costs, educators stressed.
“The program is no cost to the parents,” Naylor emphasized. “Everything is funded through the grant.”
The program is in need of foods for snacks for the after-school program. Manufacturing plants have helped provide food, but educators want to emphasize that other community volunteers could help in that area, as well.
“We had a company when we first started, but their funding has been cut,” Parris said.  “As of right now, we provide a snack or the students will bring in a snack.”
If anyone can help provide a snack or to volunteer a skill for students to learn, please call (256) 338-3963.
After the school year ends, AES will continue the same format with a four-week summer program in June, going three days per week a half day with a field trip on the fourth day each week, according to Naylor.
The main mission of these programs, Naylor continued, is to improve students’ overall academic performance at school.
“We work on a lot of the behaviors in after-school that will hopefully translate over to the day school,” Naylor pointed out.



See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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