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NCSS receives grant for after-school programs
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The Newton County School System received good news this week when officials learned they had been awarded the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant from the Georgia Department of Education.

The federally funded grant could net the NCSS more than $1 million over the next three years and includes $350,000 for the current school year. The system will also be eligible for a renewal of the grant for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years based on the availability of funds and on annual evaluations of the program in Newton County.

According to a press release from the NCSS, the grant monies will be used to expand the system's after school academic program (ASAP), which targets children who need after school services and remediation and whose parents are unable to afford the tuition-based after school program currently available to students. Parents whose students qualify will be notified by the program coordinator.

The funds made available to the NCSS through the grant will allow for 250 additional students to benefit from the tuition free program which is currently available at Porterdale and Middle Ridge Elementary, Liberty Middle, Challenge Charter Academy and a community-based program at the Washington Street Community Center. If all goes as planned, the program will begin at those five sites by Oct. 26.

The program is currently offered on a tuition basis at Ficquett, Porterdale, Live Oak, West Newton and Rocky Plains elementary schools and the Fairview and Clements theme schools.

"We are pleased that the grant writing efforts of the team are enabling the school system to offer ASAP to students," said Dr. Steve Whatley, Superintendent of Newton County Schools. "This program will be an additional source of help to students in academic need."

According to Newton County Schools Grants Coordinator Dr. Kathy Garber, "This program will provide funding for many of our children who are in need of remediation and after-school supervision. We are very hopeful that this opportunity will be a tremendous asset in helping them to achieve academic success."

The students will have daily use of computer labs in order to perform Internet research, play educational games, and work with software that allows for online practice in math and reading skills. Additionally, homework assistance and tutoring will also be provided daily and lessons will be planned to meet not only the needs of individual students but for small groups as well, according to the NCSS press release.

Other activities will be offered in language arts — including English and Spanish — the arts and recreation. Field trips will be taken and students will be able to participate in discussions and lessons on proper behavior, decision making and study skills. Parents will participate in parent education classes and those in need of literacy or GED preparation classes will have assistance through Newton County Reads.

The objectives of the ASAP program are to improve academic performance in core areas, emphasizing on reading and math; improve homework completion; increase classroom participation; addressing behavioral issues; allow for more opportunities for students to become involved in the arts and recreation and increased parent involvement.

ASAP is a collaborative effort that involves various organizations throughout the county. According to the press release, the NCSS has partnered with the Newton County Recreation Department, The Arts Association in Newton County, Newton County Reads and the Covington Police Department. Also, the NCSS has a long-standing relationship with the Community Partnership, which includes representatives from a number of organizations such as KidsNet, the Literacy Coalition, Gwinnett/Rockdale/Newton Mental Health, the Juvenile Courts and Juvenile Justice, and the Health Department, who together with the school district, continue to seek ways to improve the lives of young people.

"This program will offer students and their families support through after school and parent services that will enhance learning during the regular school day," said Deena Sams, 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Coordinator for NCSS.

"The 21st Century ASAP will feature activities that students will not only enjoy, but will learn simultaneously. We are extremely excited to have this program in Newton County."