Originally published March 17, 2022 in The Bristol Press.

By Dean Wright

The Twenty-first Century Community Learning Center grants focus on programs steering to better a child’s social and emotional development, STEAM learning and academic support while also offering enrichment opportunities to families.

Co-writers for the grant included Ivy Drive School, South Side School and Hubbell School. The grant will provide 75% of funding for next year and 50% for the third year, with the district making up the other portions in order to support sustainable programs.

Bristol Press photo

“When we came out of a pandemic, the superintendent was very clear that we’re moving forward with an acceleration mindset,” said South Side School Principal Dr. David Huber. “We’re taking kids who have been most impacted by covid, lost the most amount of instruction and we have the chance to make that up and provide additional instruction. We have a chance to backfill any social skills that the kids may not have learned had they been in first grade for a full year.”

Huber said it was one of the best opportunities the district has been able to provide for its students. There are family components required for the grants and they can provide the opportunity for family field trips or other resources to meet the needs of the community.

Many of the grants support physical fitness activities, arts, music and more.

“When we wrote the grant, we wanted to make this a true community grant,” said Huber.

As part of the effort, Ascension Athletics provides Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes to interested students. A partnership with Indian Rock Nature Preserve and Barnes Nature Center provides programs in school and students are able to go to the preserve to learn as well. Bristol Technical Education Center will also provide food for students involved with the grant programs during events.

“It’s nice that it’s completely community-based. We want to support what’s (in the city),” said Huber.

Principal of Hubbell School, Kristine DeLeo, called the afterschool program at Hubbell the “Hound Afterschool Program” and extended the day for students kindergarten through third grade.

“This provides extra academic wrap-around support for students four days per week,” she said in an email. “Students receive an extra boost of small group instruction in grade level curriculum as well as fun enrichment activities. This program even provides dinner before the students leave at 6 pm. Due to these additional academic supports, personal goal setting, and social emotional support, our Hounds are showing growth in all areas.”

Princpal at Ivy Drive School Emily Gomes said the programs were rewarding for famillies, children and all who had a part in them.

“Parents have reached out to share how happy their children are to be a part of the program and how much they enjoy the activities and in service offerings they have,” she said. “The Barnes Nature Center came to do an in-service with the students recently and brought a live owl for the students to see. Our students in the PAL program learned all about the animal and then got to actually see the owl up close and personal. The next day, there was a buzz in classrooms where our students were talking about and sharing this experience with their peers; they were so excited and willing to share their learning.”

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