Exeter Schools land $500K grant for after-school program
District to get $500,000 for expanded after-school program
Mandy Mattingly, kindergarten teacher and grant writer for the Exeter School District, celebrated her birthday on Sept. 2, and she received an unexpected gift when she was notified the district won a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant it applied for in June.
"I was very shocked," she said. "We had heard through the grapevine that a majority of the grants were going to past recipients, which would not have been Exeter. I hadn't given up hope, but I was afraid to be excited and then let down."
Mattingly said there's almost too much excitement to bear now that the grant, for $500,000 over a 5-year period, has been awarded to the district to expand its after-school care program.
The district has an after-school care program now, but the incoming grant will bring many changes and programs not available in the past.
Mattingly said it was a surprise to receive the grant, especially with Exeter's small size compared to others who may have applied.
"It's exciting that a little school got it," she said. "There are several St. Louis schools that serve 300 kids, and ours will serve about 80-100, so the competition was very stiff."
Earnest Raney, Exeter School district superintendent, said he is excited to get the program underway.
"I am so proud of our teachers," he said. "They were really gung ho on the deal and Mandy worked so hard on it, and now she's ecstatic about it."
Raney said it's great for Exeter to get such a grant because it will provide new opportunities for students in the district.
"The thing of it is that the students will have an opportunity to achieve higher results educationally and beat challenges they have," he said. "It's a five-year deal, so it's tremendous. It will help families out, and it's a well-designed initiative that fits our needs."
Mattingly said the first step in the program is getting together every one who will be involved, including those at the school, the city and in the community.
"Right now, we're working on setting up the advisory council meeting, and we'll have a meeting with the parents of kids who are interested before we can start."
Mattingly said the council will be made up of a variety of individuals, including parents, grant staff, school administration, school board members, community partners, school nurse, school counselor, school speech therapist, State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob), Exeter Mayor Pro Tempore Rhonda Scott, Exeter Police Chief Morgan Struble, a program evaluator and other interested patrons or business-owners in the city.
"We will also have teachers on the council so we can correspond our after-schoool program with the regular classes to make sure we're not doing the same things," Mattingly said.
The program is expected to begin in the last week of September, and will offer a plethora of new activities for Exeter school children after regular school hours.
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."
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.
Written into the more than 100-page grant proposal was funding for staff for the program, which Mattingly said she is looking to hire at a rate of $20 per hour.
"How many staff we will have will be based on when people are available," she said. "We'll have about three in the afternoons and one in the morning."