District seeking grant funds; Money will boost before/ after school care

District seeking grant funds; Money will boost before/ after school care by M. Jill Karolevitz Before and after school day care may get a boost in the community if the Vermillion School District is successful in its application to the US Department of Education for a 21st Century Learning Center grant.

Ginnie Talley, school counselor, presented information about the grant to the Vermillion School Board Jan. 15. The board gave its support for the application process, which will be headed by Talley and Kathy Prasek, Indian education director for the school system.

�The program was started three years ago and 16 schools in South Dakota are involved,� Talley said. �It�s not just a before and after school program, but there�s a summer component, too.�

Talley and Prasek will soon be surveying the community to assess its needs and support prior to making application for the grant. The deadline is March 30.

�Once we prioritize our needs and what the community can provide, we have to determine the costs. That�s what the amount of the grant is based on,� Talley said. �But in the long run, the idea is to serve everyone � all ages, on all socio/economic levels.�

Funding is provided to schools that can enhance before and after school services already established in the community.

�It�s non-competitive with other programs,� Prasek said. �It�s meant to share resources in the hopes of strengthening what is already here.�

The grant stipulates that programs must be academic in nature, which would include homework time. The program must also address the reduction of drug and alcohol use and violence prevention.

�An academic enrichment program is what would be established � a structured time for children during which they would not be alone with nothing to do,� Talley said. �It would teach students how to entertain themselves without substance use or even television.�

There is a non-construction clause, which means that facilities in the community must be shared � nothing new can be built. And an on-site director must be hired. Training is provided to the staff, which in other programs around the state include paid certified teachers, tutors and aides from the school districts, along with other outside volunteers.

Partnership with other community programs is also necessary.

�This would have to be a community-based effort,� Talley said. �It�s our hope that we can work with other entities throughout the county in establishing a program.�

Talley and Prasek noted several benefits that other schools have seen after starting 21st Century Learning Centers:

? Homework is completed on time

? Students participate more in class

? Grades improve

? Reduced crime and substance abuse

? Improved class attendance

�These are some of our goals, too,� Talley said.

�And the more children and families we can involve, the more wan can build a stronger community,� Prasek added. �We want to give families a vested interested by getting everyone involved.�

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