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Boys & Girls Clubs after school program gets $1.4M

POSTED: August 5, 2014 1:21 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Tia Pearson takes a break from preparing her classroom for Thursday's first day of classes at Fair Street to log in to the school's system with her KUMO mobile tablet. The device has become the new textbook for students who are able to read, study, test and learn. Teachers are able to monitor a student's work in real time and interact with the student as well to help correct errors.

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Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School Principal William Campbell has a lot to be excited about this school year.

This is the first time Fair Street has begun the school year at its new location, which is one of the most technologically capable in the district, and it’s the first time it will be able to expand its enrichment and after-school programs thanks to a federal grant awarded to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County.

The $1.4 million 21st Century Community Learning Center grant will be awarded to the Boys & Girls Clubs each year for the next three years. In the fourth and fifth year, the amount will decrease by 10 and 20 percent, respectively. The grant uses federal funds and was awarded through the Georgia Department of Education.

Steven Mickens, chief professional officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, said the grant will be used to provide Saturday school programs at all five Gainesville elementary schools and at three standalone club locations in the county.

At Fair Street and the three standalone locations, the grant will provide both Saturday school and additional enrichment programs.

“We had a program after school, but it’s not at this scale,” Campbell said. “We’ll be able to serve as much as 90 to 100 students every day. We’re anticipating beginning in mid-to-late August.”

Campbell said he’s also looking forward to the Saturday school program because it will allow the school to give students access to facilities such as computers, the gym and the library on the weekends.

At Fair Street, the after-school program will include tutoring as well as enrichment programs such as dance, art and physical education.

Mickens said the enrichment program includes ballet, music, puppetry, archery, cosmetology, kung fu and an array of other programs.

“Anything you can imagine; it’s kind of the bells and whistles that we’re going to be able to offer these kids,” he said. In addition to that, “The kids are going to be getting tutoring by a certified teacher four hours a week.”

The Saturday school program includes all eight locations and will be offered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 13 to 14 occasions this year. Like the after-school program, Saturday school will include both tutoring and enrichment activities.

Mickens said Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County already offered a Saturday school program, but it often had a waiting list of 70 or higher.

The grant was awarded after a competitive application process.

“The grant is really designed to help kids that are at-risk that can have so many different barriers, whether they’re academic or social barriers,” Mickens said. “It is a great opportunity for us to offer academic and enrichment support to the kids in the clubs, and we’re working with our two school districts.”

Mickens said Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County serve around 600 kids per day, but the grant is designed to serve around 360 kids, so the organization is planning to ramp up its fundraising efforts to provide the services to a greater number of kids.

Campbell said the grant-funded programs are among a number of reasons he’s excited about starting the new school year. The school also has plans to expand the technology program that was successful for it last year.

The school has used tablets in the classroom since moving to its new location in October 2013, providing one tablet for each child in second through fifth grades and six tablets for each kindergarten and first-grade classroom. This year, it will begin sending tablets home with students, starting with one fifth-grade classroom and expanding to other classrooms and grade levels later.

Campbell said the tablets have been a valuable tool for teaching and learning.

“It gives you more teaching opportunities,” he said. “The kids have access to that (information) now. They don’t have to wait for us. ...This allows for personalized learning, and it gives the kids the opportunity to research.”

He said students also have access to hundreds of books through services the school subscribes to, as well as tutorials and educational games.

Most of all, Campbell said he is glad to be in a building where “everything works,” and where the school is not split into separate buildings or modular units.

“We’re just happy to be under one roof,” he said.



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