• 73°

County receives 21st century grant

On February 2, 2001, when Governor Don Siegelman declared proration of 6.2 percent for Alabama's public schools, the educational picture for the state's public school students looked bleak. This act meant that roughly $600,000 would be cut from the amount of money that the state had budgeted for Butler County's schools. As a result, with basic services which the school system had been offering in doubt, there certainly were no funds available for the "extras", such as after school programs and summer school programs.

So when the county received notification earlier this year that it had been awarded the

21st

Century Community Learning Centers Grant, it was almost like a prayer answered. "While it certainly is not a replacement for state allocated funds, the 21st Century Grant will allow us to do some of the "extra" things which cannot be done with state funding," said Gerry Adair, the federal programs coordinator for Butler County schools. "The 21st

Century Community Learning Centers program, which was established by Congress and is administered through the United States Department of Education, awards grants to rural and inner-city public schools to enable them to implement or expand projects that benefit the educational, health, social services, cultural and recreational needs of the community.

School-based learning centers provide safe, drug-free, supervised and cost-effective after-school, weekend or summer havens for children, youth and their families. These grants may be used to plan, implement or expand community learning centers. Butler County, which will receive more than $400,000 each year for three years from the grant, has established The Butler County

Education and Community Center at the old Greenville High School building.

"There is a great need in this county for such funding. With more mothers and grandmothers working, and in light of proration, we are most fortunate in Butler County to have this grant. This summer, for example, it is funding summer school programs at W.O. Parmer, Greenville Elementary, and R.L. Austin for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and also at Greenville Middle School for fifth grade students," said Adair.

According to Adair, summer school classes are taught by certified teachers with class size being limited to 15 students. The emphasis of these classes is on reading, math, science, and character education using thematic units. The teachers do hands-on activities and use learning centers to motivate the students academically. Ledda Norris is the director of the summer school program.

In addition to the summer schools that the grant has made possible, it has also provided a summer enrichment program, available to any public or private school student in the county. According to Amy Bryan, the director of the Education and Community Center, some of the classes being offered in the summer enrichment program include basketball, swimming, arts and crafts, Tech Fun (a computer class using a variety of software), The Builders (a building projects class that relates to academic lessons), and A Wondrous Place (a class focusing on the culture and language of Mexico). Besides the summer enrichment program, the Community Center is also home to a Technology Resource Center, the AmeriCorps office, Even Start, Adult Education and the Butler County Alternative School. Bryan stated that since this site is being used for the enrichment program, the 21st

Century Grant has also made possible renovations and repairs to the building.

Both Adair and Bryan will travel to Washington, D.C. in July, which is a requirement of the grant, to be trained in the evaluation process that will show if the students have made progress. "Hopefully some of the summer school students will go into the extended day program in the fall," Adair said. When asked what will happen when the three years of the grant are completed, she replied, "I'll get back on the Internet and search for other grants and other sources of funding. That's how I found the 21st

Century Grant."

Bryan echoed Adair's sentiments about the need for outside funding sources in Butler County. "We qualify," she said. "We have much need."