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Grants bring after school program to RCS

Students at both Russellville Elementary School and West Elementary School will be able to take part in a high-quality after school enrichment program starting Dec. 1 thanks to two grants the schools received from the Alabama Department of Education.

This month RES and WES received grants for $150,000 each to implement a 21st Century Community Learning Center program at each school. According to the grant specifications, funds will be awarded annually for a period of three years to run the after school programs.

RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes said this is the same after school program RCS and the Franklin County School System were jointly part of in years past. After the systems decided to apply for the grants separately last year, Grimes said administrators at RCS took a survey of parents to see if there would be enough interest for the system to apply for its own grants for the program this year.

“Our survey showed there was a lot of interest for this program, enough that we decided to apply for two grants – one for each elementary school,” Grimes said. “We heard from several parents who were disappointed we didn’t have it last year, and we always want to do what we can to meet the needs of our students.”

Grimes said the 21st CCLC program is beneficial in several different areas and will be an asset to the students, faculty and to the system.

“This program helps with academics through homework help, it builds community partnerships, provides mentoring, helps build relationships, and provides a safe environment for students who need after school care,” he said. “It will also generate extra compensation for some existing employees who choose to work in the program and create some part-time jobs.”

RES Principal Kristie Ezzell said student success is the main goal of the 21st CCLC.

“The commitment to students and helping them experience success was the driving force for establishing the 21st Century Learning Center,” Ezzell said. “Teachers will develop lessons to challenge students and promote academic progress in the areas of reading and math. Also, STEM lessons will be presented to engage students in hands-on, experimental, inquiry based activities. This program has been missed at Russellville Elementary and we are so excited to have it back for our parents and students. We can’t wait to get it up and going.”

WES Principal Deanna Hollimon said she was also excited to have a program like this at their school.

“The fact that our students will have an opportunity to have after school enrichment opportunities, especially the STEM activities is wonderful,” Hollimon said. “We are also excited to partner with parents, agencies and organizations in this community to make the most of all this program has to offer.”

Grimes said the grants the schools received will help fund things such as building use, utilities and highly qualified personnel to staff the programs. Students who enroll in one of the 21st CCLC programs will be required to pay a tuition based on a sliding scale rate related to household income.

“This is a great program, and we are excited we will be able to offer this to our students,” Grimes said. “The community provides tremendous support for our schools. This is something that was important to them, so this is a way to support the needs of the community and to give back to them.”

Ezzell said the program will be available from 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday during the school year and will follow the RCS school calendar, meaning the program will run on days school is in session. The program will also run for 40 days during the summer months from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Both schools will serve 90 students in the after school program and 125 students during the summer program. Students will be selected through a lottery from a pool of applicants. A date has not been set for when applications will be available, but Hollimon said as soon as they receive further guidance from the state department and handle some in-house details, parents will be notified, and sign-ups will be available at each school.