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Berkeley Co. Schools looks to start after-school program

March 08, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An estimated 14 million children across the country are latchkey children, meaning when they return home from school no parent or guardian is there to look after them.

In Berkeley County, school officials are trying to obtain a grant to change that.

If approved, the county would receive $448,000 a year for three years to implement an after-school program. A reduced amount of funding, to be offset by community partnerships, would follow for the next two years, said Wendy Bird, a second-grade teacher at Tuscarora Elementary School.

Bird outlined the proposal Monday night to members of the county's Board of Education. She said she plans to mail the grant application today and should hear whether it's been approved in late April or early May.

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After-school program sites would be at Eagle School Intermediate, Burke Street Elementary, Opequon Elementary, Tuscarora Elementary and Winchester Avenue Elementary. All of the schools are in Martinsburg.

Title I students - those who need extra help to hone their math and reading skills - would receive preference, but no student at any of the five schools would be turned down, Bird said after the meeting.

Ten buses would be used to transport as many as 660 students home after the program, Bird said.

Activities would begin at 3:20 p.m. with a nutritional snack. From 3:30 to 3:50 p.m., students would take part in an exercise program, designed to try to fight obesity in children.

From 3:50 to 4:20 p.m., children would work on academic programs, with tutoring available, get help with their homework and participate in technology programs and power writing/journaling activities.

From 4:20 to 5:20 p.m., students would be involved in enrichment activities, including multicultural activities, drama, dance, music instruments/choral, karate, gymnastics and art programs, Bird said.

An on-site coordinator at each of the schools would oversee the program, while teachers who want to be involved with the academic portion of the program would be paid an extra $20 an hour, Bird said.

Volunteers, including members of the community and students from Shepherd University, would handle the enrichment activities, Bird said.

Benefits of the program would include keeping students off the streets - which could lead to less juvenile crime and vandalism - teaching time-management skills, improving students' attendance and grades and improving social skills, said Bird, who has been working on the grant application since October 2004.

If Berkeley County obtains the grant, the after-school program would be implemented in the upcoming 2005-06 school year.

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