Exeter applying for 21st Century grant

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

$500K grant over 5 years would fund after-school program

The Exeter R-6 School District has an after-school care program, but Mandy Mattingly, kindergarten teacher and grant writer, is hoping to expand the program by applying for a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.

The grant, which is worth $500,000 over a five-year period, would allow the district to fund before-school and after-school programs for K-12 students that go far beyond what is offered now.

"We sent out a needs assessment to parents, and they felt we have a great need for fitness, STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), college and career readiness, literature and math, English language learner support and homework help," she said. "We hope to serve 100 kids with 80 regular attendees, and we had a really good response from the parents on the needs assessment, so we hope that translates into good participation."

The after-school care program would be the largest part of the grant, as it would provide theme-based activities for students each day, as well as five family activity nights, three, six-week adult classes and two field trips per year.

"The family activity nights will be things like movie night, game night, reading carnivals, crazy concoctions science experiments and program plays," Mattingly said. "The adult classes will be on things like parenting, technology and job skills."

Ernest Raney, superintendent of Exeter Schools, lauded Mattingly's past experience in other districts who have obtained the grant, and he believes if the district gets 1/3 of its 320-student enrollment into the program, it will work wonders.

"We've been talking about extended learning opportunities for the students for some time, and this would help us get a good, quality after-school care program the kids will be excited about and want to attend," he said. "I know it's a competitive grant, so we'll have to make sure we're competitive with other schools, but I'm confident in Mandy's experience, and I hope she helps us get an edge."

Raney said one thing he hopes will help Exeter obtain the grant is showing the need for an after-school program.

"Right now, we don't have extended learning opportunities for the kids, and this would allow us to have more teaching time and improve student performance in a different, more hands-on setting," he said. "And, if 1/3 of our students get involved, that would be an excellent learning opportunity for them that we would otherwise not offer."

The grant requires Exeter to partner with local businesses as well, and Mattingly said the district has about 15 businesses agreeing to provide support to the program.

"They will provide things like instruction, materials or information for the kids and adults," she said.

While plans for the program are in the works, Mattingly said the district will not know if it receives the grant until September.

"We won't know if we get the grant until September, so it's hard for parents to know if their kids will be a part of it," she said. "It would be the first after-school program of its kind at Exeter, and the purpose is to give the kids opportunities they may not otherwise have because of location or economic status. It will be a more hands-on learning opportunity and will give the kids better chances to succeed."

The deadline for the grant proposal, which is more than 100 pages long, is June 25.

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