Thanks to a grant from the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority, Henkle Middle School's "Project Open Door" after school program has won funding to carry it through another year.
On Monday, the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the EDA's recommendations for 2003, and $25,000 for Project Open Door was among the items approved.
Project Open Door has two main objectives: To provide academic assistance to kids beyond the normal school day; and to provide a "safe and fun" place to be after school.
Students in fifth through eighth grades are eligible to participate in the program.
"We're going to be able to get through this year and this summer," said Rick George, principal of Henkle Middle School. "We're very happy. Without this grant, there would be no summer program."
Students generally spend their first hour each day doing homework and getting help with reading or math. After that, there are extracurricular activities, including recreation, games, and art. All the activities take place at Henkle Middle School.
White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen, a member of the EDA board, noted that the city councils of both Bingen and White Salmon unanimously agreed to identify Project Open Door as a key priority for the greater community. The two cities jointly requested funding for the project for 2003.
"It was clearly the number one priority for both Bingen and White Salmon," said Holen. "It's something the cities desperately need."
The program, now in its fourth year, operates Monday-Thursday each week. It begins at 3 p.m. and continues until 5:45 p.m. on those days.
Adding Fridays is not in the cards, according to George.
"We can't afford Friday right now," he explained.
The summer program covers 23 days, although dates for this summer have not yet been determined.
Project Open Door is geared to students at Henkle Middle School, but those involved with the program want to see it become more inclusive.
"We'd like to expand to all the schools, and are involved in planning for that," George said. "Whether we can do that or not we don't know, but we're sure trying."
"Statistics show these are important programs. What we really would like is to involve the other schools too," explained Norm Luther, a Project Open Door volunteer. "In my mind, the elementary school is as important as any of them."
George said that as of the end of January, a total of 337 different students had participated in Project Open Door at least once this school year, and many of them multiple times.
The average daily attendance has been pegged at 55 students.
Holen added that the school district is seeking grant money to provide for expanding the program into the summer months, and will need further financial support if the program is to continue into 2004.
"The schools are constantly looking for grant money and private donations," Holen said.
"The funding is ongoing. There is not any one source of funding to keep us going," George added. "I'm very, very grateful to Rabanco, the County Commissioners, and the city council people for supporting this very worthwhile program for kids. And our families that need to work are happy their children have a safe place to be, with caring adults."