By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS) is applying for a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. The $400,000 four-year grant would fund a program to serve the district’s six elementary schools, as well as students and families at the Conetoe Family Life Center.
“The benefits of providing students with academic enrichment opportunities that they currently do not have through a 21st century program would significantly impact the lives of children and adults in Edgecombe County,” wrote ECPS Superintendent John Farrelly, in the application. He said the district has not been able to provide formal after school programming for “a long time” because of budget cuts and believes additional instruction time is necessary to raise student achievement.
“This would be a proactive way for us to provide more instruction to kids,” Farrelly said.
The district will learn the status of its grant application at the State Board of Education meeting in May. If the district receives the grant, the program would begin next March.
The program would serve students after school for three hours per day, four days per week for the 10 weeks leading up to End Of Grade (EOG) tests. The summer school program would provide six weeks of academic programming for four hours per day, focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic).
“We tried to stretch our dollars as far as we could and tried to have as many kids involved as possible, so every single school would have up to 100 kids who could be involved in the program,” Farrelly said.
Targeted reading instruction would be a component of the program, and high performing teachers in the district would provide instruction. Edgecombe County has three of the 118 persistently low performing elementary schools in North Carolina — Princeville, Coker-Wimberly and W.A. Pattillo, as noted in the needs assessment portion of the application. Raising elementary test scores is important because of recent legislation mandating that third grade students not proficient on the EOG reading test attend summer reading camps and be retained if they do not pass the test at the end of camp.
The program also would include enrichment activities such as intramural sports, cultural field trips, music, dance and technology components. The program would involve parents and the community, in addition to students. Farrelly proposes a “parent university” to provide parents “ways they can support their child’s education at home.” The Conetoe Family Life Center is ECPS’ partner in the proposed program.
“Any way we can support the community and promote involvement across faith settings and school settings is certainly something we aim for,” Farrelly said.
“It’s a great opportunity for human development for all of us. We look forward to it,” said Rev. Richard Joyner, pastor of Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and Family Life Center executive director. He said he is “very impressed” with Farrelly’s “willingness to embrace the community” and involve them in education.
The center currently serves students in after school and summer programs and has a computer lab. The district has agreed to update the center’s access to technology as part of the partnership. The district has also agreed to provide professional development opportunities to center staff.
One program currently offered at the center is gardening, for the purpose of teaching youth “workforce development” while improving their overall health, Joyner said. The center’s mission is to bring resources into the community that will “educate and empower” residents.