Greenfield wins grant for free after-school programs

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Publication Name: Chris Shores, Greenfield Recorder
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GREENFIELD – Greenfield students will be able to attend free after-school programs this year with tutoring and enrichments activities, thanks to a 21st Century Community Learning Center federal grant.

The two programs, facilitated by the Collaborative for Educational Services, which secured the grant and brings staff in to work with students at Federal Street elementary school and Greenfield High School, will aim to reach about 70 to 100 students each day, said Chris Taggart, project director for the collaborative. The grant, approximately $90,000 a year for each program, was technically awarded last September. But because of delays by the state, which handles the money once it’s passed down from the federal level, the program could not be implemented until this spring.

Two summer programs wrapped up last week and coordinators will be ready to start the main programs again when school returns in September. The Federal Street program is offered five days a week and the Greenfield High School program runs Monday through Thursday.

“The reason for the program is to provide more learning and enrichment opportunities for students,” said Superintendent Susan Hollins. “The students will have art, music, tutoring, exercise, math, probably some robotics and theater – and it is all free. It’s unbelievable, really, for parents who want or need after-school care.”

The programs are optional for students. Taggart said that coordinators hope to serve the same group of students as often as possible and focus on specific academic goals at each school. Federal Street students work on English/language arts skills through tutoring and enrichment activities. High school students work on improving their math skills. The programs include snacks and an opportunity for homework help. Students can take a bus home when the program ends at 5:30 p.m. Taggart said grant money is used to pay for collaborative staff who teach the programs as well as other costs for supplies and transportation.

Greenfield already has after-school programs at Newton Elementary School, Greenfield Middle School and the Math and Science Academy. After-school grants are part of a national effort to have students spend more time learning 21st century skills, said Hollins.

“American students spend less time in school than many other countries, hours per day and days per year,” she said. “You read about this constantly, around issues of fewer engineers, fewer students pursuing math and science, and generally a feeling that our country’s children are not competitive in the global economy.”

Summer camp

The grant covered two month-long summer programs, which wrapped up last week. About 30 elementary and 15 high school students participated, said Taggart, with some of the older students serving as mentors to the younger group. Part of the time was spent on community service projects, focusing on helping to fight hunger. The other time was spent in arts, music and theater classes, and elementary students worked on a “Kitty Cat Capers” musical performance for friends and family.

Greenfield schools music teacher Elizabeth Markofski said students made their own costumes and learned to sing and dance to cat songs like “Itty Bitty Kitty Cats” and “Scaredy Cat Strut.” The camp offered students a chance to gain confidence on stage, she said. For many, it was their first time in a play or musical. “I have personally witnessed students come alive with inspiration, determination and creativity,” she said. “These skills will be carried with them throughout the rest of their lives.”

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