By BEN MITCHELL
The students of the White Salmon Valley School District will likely be very busy next week.
Starting Monday, students at all three schools in the WSVSD will have markedly enhanced opportunities for before- and after-school activities due to a grant that was recently awarded to the district.
Last month, the district announced it had received a $1.5 million 21st Century Community Learning Center grant that will provide most of the funds for these programs. WSVSD Superintendent Dr. Jerry Lewis said the grant is one of the largest the district has ever received for programming and said it wasn't so easy to come by.
"It's a very competitive grant," he noted. "We feel very fortunate that we got it."
The grant funds will be dispersed over the next five years, which means the district will get approximately $300,000 per year to spend on the programs.
The grant is specifically geared toward struggling students, but Lewis added that the district has set aside some $25,000 in levy funds for other students who are interested.
"We don't want to turn any kids away that want to participate," he said.
In July, the state received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but had to replace it with its own educational reform legislation. The state law mandates schools like Whitson Elementary focus on raising the test scores of its students who struggle the most. Lewis said the receipt of the federal grant had nothing to do with the state waiver, but noted the money will be useful in helping accomplish the state's and the district's goal of raising students' test scores.
"As we're trying to close our achievement gap, we view this resource as very timely," he said and added that many studies show students need an extra three hours of instruction, four times a week to raise their scores.
Students will be able to receive extra assistance in a variety of subjects, including reading, writing, math, and science. Summer school sessions are also funded by the grant.
In addition to tutoring, students will also have the choice of a variety of enrichment activities that will expose them to more than just the "Three R's." The enrichment offerings haven't been set in stone yet, but such activities as rocketry, cooking, robotics, dance, geocaching, yoga, photography, archery, gardening and many others have been suggested.
Lewis was thankful to all who helped with the grant-writing efforts, including the White Salmon Valley Education Foundation, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library, the county 4H Club extensions as well as other individuals and organizations.
Morning instruction time will run from 7:30 to 8:15, Tuesday through Friday. Afternoon instruction will go from 3:15 to 5:15, Monday through Thursday, with the exception of Wednesday, when after-school activities will start at 1:40. Enrichment is open to all, but tutoring will be by invitation only, as it has in the past. Lewis noted that bussing will be provided and is covered by the grant funds.