Newton County Schools receives grant for After School program

Kim Boardman reading to kindergarteners and pre-K kids in the West Newton Elem School, they read a story about a spider then made spider inspired snacks made out of chocolate.

Kim Boardman reading to kindergarteners and pre-K kids in the West Newton Elem School, they read a story about a spider then made spider inspired snacks made out of chocolate.

COVINGTON -- Three more schools have an after school program this school year thanks to a state grant.

The Newton County School System recently announced that a new 21st Century Community Learning Center grant is funding three more sites for the After School Academic Program. West Newton Elementary School, Indian Creek Middle School and Newton High School will now be able to offer the tuition-free program to needy students.

ASAP is an enrichment program that incorporates general education studies, health and fitness, cultural activities, the arts and other areas. NCSS currently has 11 tuition-based sites, and with the new grant, has seven tuition-free sites, which invite students to participate in the program.

"The after school programs are critical to youth and their families," said Deena Sams, program coordinator for ASAP. "They provide a safe, positive and healthy environment, help working families and inspire learning."

The program started in 2008 with about 200 students at three sites. Now, the program can serve more than 1,000 students with the new grant.

The grant will fund $350,000 each school year for the next three years. The grant program is designed to provide after school academics and enrichment activities for children, and the tuition-free program helps students from lowincome families who need additional support and assistance to achieve academic success.

The tuition-free program also is available at Middle Ridge and Porterdale Elementary Schools, Liberty Middle School and the Washington Street Community Center.

Tuition-based ASAP programs are available at Fairview, Flint Hill, Heard-Mixon, Live Oak, Livingston, Rocky Plains, Oak Hill, Porterdale, South Salem and West Newton elementary schools, as well as the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett. Cost is $40 for one child and $35 for each additional child.

The program is a collaborative effort involving the school system, the Newton County Community Partnership, Hands On Newton, Newton Reads and the Newton County Recreation Department.

Program objectives include improved performance in core academic areas with an emphasis on reading, math and science; improved homework completion, class participation and behavior; opportunities for students to be more involved in the arts and recreation and increased parent involvement in their children's education. Students also get a healthy snack.

The program also is designed to help students at all levels develop study skills, decisionmaking and goalsetting skills and the characteristics needed to succeed academically.

Students have daily access to computer labs for research, homework assistance and tutoring.

This year with the addition of a high school program, those students have the opportunity to make up classes they have failed and earn credits toward graduation.

"We have consistently had over 50 students attend the program each day, which is remarkable for a high school," said school Principal Craig Lockhart. "Our students are getting an opportunity to receive extra support in their studies, and we are confident that the 21st CCLC After School Academic Program will lead to increased student achievement at NHS."

Enrichment activities include guest speakers, career exploration, visual and performing arts, fitness activities and special topics such as etiquette, nutrition and cooking, sign language, video and music production, local history and environmental awareness. Students also hope to take field trips to the Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta, Covington and Newton County Historic Sites, the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center and, for high school students, local colleges.

The program is reviewed each year by visits and analyzing student test scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test and other data.

Sams said the program hopes to increase communication between ASAP volunteers and school day teachers, as well as sending out more automated phone messages to parents and partnering with Title 1 programs to provide more activities.

The program's operating hours are 2:10 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the elementary schools, 4:15 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at the middle schools and 3:15 until 6:00 p.m. at Washington Street Community Center, Monday through Friday. The high school program is held 3:15 until 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Anyone interested in registering for the program should contact Sams at 770-787-1330, ext. 1271.