Local afterschool programs in jeopardy

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  • ALBERTON AND Superior schools are waiting to hear if 21st CCLC awarded them a grant for their Afterschool Program. (Maggie Dresser photos/Mineral Independent)

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    SUPERIOR AND Alberton started receiving the 21st CCLC grant more than 10 years ago. Since then, the award has become more competitive and the federal grant program is offering fewer dollars to schools.

  • ALBERTON AND Superior schools are waiting to hear if 21st CCLC awarded them a grant for their Afterschool Program. (Maggie Dresser photos/Mineral Independent)

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    SUPERIOR AND Alberton started receiving the 21st CCLC grant more than 10 years ago. Since then, the award has become more competitive and the federal grant program is offering fewer dollars to schools.

When Superior parent Roxanne Wyatt drops her kindergartner and fifth-grader off at Superior Elementary School for summer camp, she feels relieved to know her kids are being supervised and will be unplugged from their electronics while she’s at work.

But Wyatt’s kids might not be able to continue attending camp after June 30, unless the Superior and Alberton schools receive the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative, a federal grant that funds the camp and the Afterschool Program during the school year.

The program provides activities like gardening, ceramics, baking and homework help during the school year and it extends to the summer where kids can attend camp. Summer activities include paleontology, hiking, fishing, Lego robotics and field trips. The program also provides meals and snacks for students.

“My kids love it, they really look forward to it which does help with the improvements in grades and behavior,” Wyatt said.

The program separates students into a kindergarten through second grade group and a third through sixth-grade group. In the summer program’s first week in Alberton, 14 students in kindergarten through second grade were enrolled while 19 students were enrolled in the third through sixth grades.

“Since there’s only 79 kinds in K-6, that’s quite a bit of the population,” Alberton Schools Principal Mica Clarkson said. Superior and Alberton began receiving funding from the 21st CCLC grant more than ten years ago. The initiative provides federal funding for local afterschool and summer learning programs, specifically schools with high-poverty rates.

IN 2019, the 21st CCLC funded Montana with $5,986,198 serving almost 6,000 children. The 2020 proposal could potentially fund the state with $6,476,198 to serve almost 6,500 children, according the Afterschool Alliance.

But Clarkson says the 21st CCLC grant was very competitive this year because they are giving fewer dollars to schools. She says they don’t necessarily provide funding based on just poverty levels, but they base it on how school’s ran the program in the past and if they are utilizing it to its maximum potential.

“They obviously add in narratives about our community’s situation and our lack of options for underprivileged students,” she said. “It’s more than just that need.”

Superior Elementary Administrative Assistant and grant co-grant writer Dawn Bauer says 48 schools applied for the grant in 2018 and only 12 received it.

“It’s very competitive and a lot more people are putting in,” she said. “The federal government is making lots of cuts.”

IN 2014, the 21st CCLC grant awarded Superior and Alberton $107,086 for the following five years, according to the Office of Public Instruction. Bauer says they applied for the same dollar amount in 2019 because the more money one school receives, the less money another school can receive.

“We didn’t want to take more money,” Bauer said. “We kept out budget exactly the same, we want to make sure kids have options and fun things to do and there’s other schools.”

Funding from the 2014 award ends on June 30, 2019, marking its five-year life. Schools will know by the end of June whether or not they received the 2019 award.

“If we don’t get funding, summer camps will be cancelled, there will be no after school tutoring, there will be less coaches and equipment, there won’t be any of that available,” Bauer said.

SUPERIOR SCHOOLS Superintendent Scott Kinney says they have lost the grant before and had a two-year period without it. He says other districts go to a pay-for-service model in such cases, but that’s tough to do in Mineral County.

“Our poverty metrics don’t support that,” he said. “We work really hard to make sure the services provided are the best possible.”

If schools don’t receive the grant this year, Wyatt says it would severely limit her kid’s activities since there are few alternatives offered. Many families in Mineral County can’t afford expensive camps in the county and Missoula.

“It would be horrible if the program were cut,” she said. “There is already no pool for the kids, they have no fun activities to keep them active and not plugged into their electronics.”

Wyatt says her family requires two incomes and it’s very helpful to have extra supervision on her kids while she’s at work. If the Afterschool Program was cut, she says a lot of parents would have to cut back on hours to watch their kids because childcare is too expensive.

“I think it’s important to the kids and the community to keep these programs funded,” Wyatt said. “Entertained kids are happier, more well-behaved kids.”

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