Board looking to save after school program

A formal tutoring program was a budget casualty a couple of year ago in the Warren County School District.

The 21st Century Learning Program, funded through a federal grant, has stepped in to fill that void.

But that grant expires later this year.

What then?

The Curriculum, Instruction and Technology committee of the school board grappled in a preliminary sense with that issue last week.

The current program runs during the school year at Warren Area Elementary Center, Allegheny Valley and Sugar Grove elementary schools, Youngsville Elementary Middle School and Tidioute Community Charter School. The program is in operation Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and focuses on homework help, enrichment opportunities and physical activity.

A summer program also runs at WAEC and YEMS.

Total budget amount for the program this year is $317,915.

Program Manager Christine Haslett prepared a host of alternatives for the board’s consideration.

Scenarios include a new grant to maintain the program as is as well as cutting the time or days for the program. Another option would be to revise locations. One potential cut would be Tidioute. “There are a very small number of students there,” she said.

Examples provided also looked at those funded by a grant that would require a manager, as well as an option where “co-curricular positions (would) administer the program. No grant would be involved.”

Board Vice-president Donna Zariczny said that “everyone keeps saying that the grant is going away after this year.” She asked if there are other grants possibilities.

Haslett said the current grant expires in September and there has been “talk” about a new grant. “There is a meeting in March in Harrisburg,” she said. “(We) might get some information then. Matt (Jones, grants coordinator) and I are working with grants that involve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and) physical education. (We are) currently looking at a food program. We are pursuing other funding avenues.”

“(We are) trying to pull something together because this is too good of a program to let it go,” she added.

“If we could have our druthers, we would want to continue with the manager we save,” said interim Director of Pupil Services Ruth Nelson, noting that they are working to develop an arrangement to preserve the service for students.

“How do we overcome the transportation problem,” asked Board President Arthur Stewart.

“Currently, parents pick up their children,” said Haslett.

“I think that what we see in tutoring is that a dollar spent today saves $5 in the future,” Stewart said.

Nelson suggested that the issue be brought for further consideration to the February committee meetings. Superintendent Dr. William Clark concurred.