Pickerington Local Schools will apply for three 21st Century Learning Grants totaling $1.7 million to help some of the district’s troubled kids.
If the Ohio Department of Education awards the grants to Pickerington, Tussing Elementary and the two junior highs will provide after-school lessons for "bubble students" – children in need of academic support but who do not qualify for other intervention services. The students would include those who have trouble with reading or math as well as those who qualify for the free lunch program.
Children would receive tutoring, homework help, and would participate in hands-on learning activities. The district would also transport the students home.
Kelly McWaters, who wrote the grant for a similar program in Delaware County, will write the Pickerington proposal for a fee of $10,000 a year.
McWaters said that the program would focus on the "whole child." Students would attend mental health appointments and the schools would help parents understand their role in the education process.
The state will only fully fund the grants for three years at $400,000, the fourth year the funding drops to $300,000, the fifth year the funding drops to $200,000, and from the sixth year onward the district would receive no state money.
To succeed, according to McWaters, the grant requires community involvement. Without community support, the service will end when the grant ends, Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia said.
"We would hate to start a good thing then stop," said Mantia.
McWaters said by the fourth year the district will have built partnerships with many agencies who "will take pieces and parts to support."
Pickerington curriculum coordinator Dr. Edwina Campbell said many of the expenses the first few years will involve start-up costs and that the district already has a partner in Pickerington’s Parks and Recreation Department.
McWaters said that the United Way, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Central Ohio YMCA have sponsored the Delaware program.
Community support is needed not only to continue the service, but to enhance it through field trips and upgrading the children’s snacks to dinners.
Mantia said that the district "has been very proactive trying to (receive) additional grants."
In January the district applied for a $750,000 Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) grant to purchase video equipment for the elementary schools.
Other Pickerington school news
•At its Feb. 11 meeting, the Pickerington Board of Education consented to spend $20,000 to help prepare students for the upcoming Ohio Achievement and Graduation tests. The money, funded by state and federal grants, will pay for staff stipends and materials.
District officials visited every school to meet with principals, department heads and many teachers who requested supplies.
The hours spent in the schools provided "an incredible view of the wonderful work in all the classrooms" and also demonstrated where "we need to make corrections, Mantia said.
•The board heard the first reading of a food allergy policy, which details the responsibilities of the school staff, the students and the parents. For example, parents of children with food allergies must provide alternatives for their children on snack days or field trips, classmates must wash their hands after lunch and staff will be trained to administer epinephrine.
•The board accepted the gift of a $3,000 projection screen for Pickerington Central’s theater from Violet Township. The township planned to use the screen at its bicentennial kick-off program Feb. 13.