School district seeking learning grants
The Baldwin school district is seeking funding to provide learning opportunities for students after school.
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers, is a federally funded program that provides three-year grants to school districts to develop after-school community centers. Deb Ehling-Gwin, the assistant principal at Baldwin Elementary School and one of the grant writers said an average grant is $325,000 to $475,000.
" The main idea is that kids need productive, supervised, activities after school," Ehling-Gwin said. "You can increase learning that way. And you can help kids stay safe and make good choices."
Ehling-Gwin said Kansas has a good success rate for securing the grant there are about 47 grants in place already, including two in Lawrence. Funding is granted based on community need, including the amount of poverty, which is based on the number of free and reduced lunches in the school district. Ehling-Gwin said about 22 percent of the district's students receive free and reduced lunches the recommended level for the grant is 35 percent.
"Our job is to establish the need other than poverty," she said.
Ehling-Gwin said there is obvious need in the district for after school programming, because sports are the only after school activities available to students in the district. She said a survey was recently sent out to patrons of the school district. The survey asks what activities are needed in the community. The learning centers can provide students with access to academic assistance and enrichment, recreational and cultural programs, summer and weekend programs, health programs and more. In addition, activities for adult community members, such as senior citizen programs, can also be funded by the grant.
"One of the areas has to be helping kids improve academic skills," Ehling-Gwin said. "Also within the scope of this grant has to be an element for the reduction of alcohol and substance abuse and juvenile violence."
Several community organizations are working with the school district during the grant writing process. The 21st Century Learning Task Force is comprised of members from the school district, the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce, Baker University, Baldwin Recreation, the police department and the Baldwin City Coalition.
"We are trying to take a broad look at what the community's needs are in regards to learning activities," Ehling-Gwin said. "The program has to be carried out in the school, but it's a community effort."
The school district is receiving technical assistance through the Kansas Health Foundation in the writing of the grant. The grant has to be submitted by March 30.
"We should hear by the first week in May," Ehling-Gwin said.
If the grant is awarded to the community, Ehling-Gwin said it is possible that each of the district's five schools will serve as a learning center location. The majority of funding for the learning centers will by applied to salaries for staff and administrators although the program also depends on volunteers.
Ehling-Gwin said the grant must also show plans for sustaining the program following the three years of funding.
"We'd need to have a plan for how this program would continue," she said.