By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
For the past year and a half, Cindy Bechtel has watched students from her afterschool program grow into better, more engaged learners.
Four days a week throughout the school year, she, along with other teachers, spends time with children working to improve their math and reading skills and provide them with a fun and meaningful learning experience as part of the Student Adventures Afterschool Program.
“It gives kids something to look forward to,” Bechtel, the Jefferson Elementary site coordinator, said. “They want to know what they’re going to do next.”
Recently, school district officials learned the afterschool programs at Jefferson, Bluff and Eagle Heights elementary schools would receive funding for three more years.
All Clinton elementary and middle schools offer
free before and afterschool education and 200 students take advantage of those programs throughout the district. The other sites are funded by a five-year grant that is not set to expire for another three years.
The three elementary programs will be funded
by a $896,358 grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program of the U.S. Department of Education.
The grant pays for the teachers, enrichments activities, transportation, supplies and select field trips for the program, which runs before and afterschool as well as a month during the summer. In order to be eligible, a school must have 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch. Students are then selected for the program so they can receive more academic enrichments mainly in math and reading in order to meet No Child Left Behind standards. Currently, the program at Jefferson, Bluff and Eagle Heights is available for second-, third- and fourth-grade students.
Next year the program will be for students in kindergarten, first and fifth grades because the grant requires the school district to shift its focus after a number of years. The three elementary school sites will be expected to serve 225 students next year.
“The goals and objectives are the same,” Afterschool Program Project Director Loras Osterhaus said. “The school board is putting more of an emphasis on kindergarten and first-grade students and having more help for them so this goes along perfectly with that.”
Each site has four to five staff members who work with kids Monday through Thursday.
On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, the students are given homework assistance and tutoring.
They also participate in academic enrichment activities such as environmental education, fine arts projects, drug/alcohol prevention, character education and science activities that help expand their learning opportunities.
On Wednesdays, children are treated to a field trip to various places in the area that will further enrich their academic experience.
According to Osterhaus, since the program was instated in 2003, it has had a positive effect on the district.
“The academic achievement we’ve seen sets our kids up for future success,” Osterhaus said.
“It gives them extra opportunities to succeed,” he said.