Grants boost ANWSD afterschool programs
VERGENNES — Two grants awarded this summer totaling $999,600 will allow preservation of Addison Northwest School District afterschool and summer programming and expansion of its K-6 offerings into Addison and Ferrisburgh central schools.
All but $40,000 of the funding to ANWSD came in the form of the district’s third 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21C) grant, a federal award administered through the Vermont Agency of Education. All three grants have been for comparable amounts to be paid over five-year periods.
The first such 21C grant came about a decade ago and funded the ANWSD afterschool (called Fusion) and summer programs for Vergennes Union Middle School students. Five years ago a second 21C grant allowed an expansion to serve Vergennes Union Elementary School pupils.
The district also received a $40,000 grant to be paid over two years. That smaller award came from the Afterschool for All grant program, administered in part by Vermont’s Child Development Division. Ultimately those funds came from the portion of the one-time tobacco settlement the Legislature allocated to the Agency of Human Services in 2018.
Because only VUES and Addison Central School meet the requirements for 21C funding (a certain percentage of students must be eligible for free or reduced lunches or be disadvantaged learners), that second grant is allowing ANWSD to expand to Ferrisburgh, according to ANWSD Fusion and summer program coordinator Tara Brooks.
Brooks is particularly happy that all ANWSD elementary and middle-school students will have the same afterschool opportunities when Fusion programs begin on Sept. 30; sign-up starts Sept. 20.
“One of the things this is really trying to do is provide equity,” Brooks said. “Oftentimes families with means are able to transport their kids to Burlington to a gymnastics class or to some sort of private lesson. This levels the playing field so that all students have access to those types of extracurricular and enrichment activities.”
Fusion offers a variety of such activities. In this past year activities with an academic orientation included Math Club; Vermont History Day, in which students can dig deep into a topic for a competitive spring presentation; a science offering at VUES; and support groups at both VUES and Vergennes Union High School.
Artistic choices featured were painting; crafts, including “String Art and Sewing”; and music, including “School of Rock.”
Action-oriented students could have picked between tennis, Tae Kwon Do, “Boot Camp” with National Guard members, a running club, and “Hula Hoops, Yoga & Circus.”
Over the years, summer offerings have, among many other things, brought students to the outdoor classroom behind VUES and VUHS and along Otter Creek on self-made rafts.
According to Brooks the programs have been popular: This past summer 30 percent of ANWSD K-9 students participated in programming, and during the 2018-2019 school year 90 percent of VUES students and 95 percent of VUHS middle-school students signed up for a Fusion offering.
Brooks said site coordinators, Jeanne Comouche at Ferrisburgh Central and Sarah Bicknell at Addison Central, are aiming to recreate that success this school year. They are joining Mavis Stansbery at VUES and Asia Kruse at VUHS.
“We’ve hired site coordinators at each of the buildings, which is brand new for us this year,” Brooks said. “They are working very hard right now to get those programs up and going.”
Brooks also said the grant would almost certainly survive a vote in Addison and/or Ferrisburgh to close one or both of those schools, with programming moving to VUES and VUHS. She contacted the education agency official who handles the 21C grants, she said, and he said the grant would likely remain because the district would be serving the same student population.
“That was a question I immediately had when I saw the school board proposal, so I emailed our representative from the AOE who oversees this grant, and asked him,” Brooks said. “He said other communities have had this, and we would just have to write an amendment to our grant, and he didn’t see any reason why we wouldn’t still receive the full amount of funding.”
She said that the afterschool and summer programs have been invaluable for ANWSD students.
“Afterschool programs have the power to connect youth to their communities and offer them opportunity to engage with their neighbors, businesses and organizations. They also can lead to improved school attendance, behavior and grades,” Brooks said. “I am very proud of how far we have come as a district in our ability to provide these opportunities to all of our students.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].