Afterschool enrichment

In an effort to fulfill the No Child Left Behind Act, Leon County Schools has been extending a helping hand to its in-need students through Florida’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

The program is intended to grant students the opportunity to learn and polish their academic skills after regular school day instruction, free-of-charge.

Gail Ogawa, the internal evaluator of the 21st CCLC program for Leon County Schools, said that in the 2005-2006 school year, 3,047 students were enrolled in the program; 1,778 students in twelve elementary schools; 720 students in three middle schools; and 549 students in two high schools.

Presently, the program is provided at twelve Leon county schools: Bond Elementary, Apalachee Elementary, Astoria Park Elementary, Sabal Palm Elementary, Ruediger Elementary, Fairview Middle, Hartsfield Elementary, Oak Ridge Elementary, Woodville Elementary, Pineview Elementary, Rickards High, and Gretchen Everhart, a school for mentally challenged students.

Eric Banks, director of the 21st CCLC program for Leon County Schools, said the program, which has been around for five years, doesn’t have any connection with fee-based after-school programs.

“It is a free program because we are trying to get those kids to apply the necessary skills to pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test,” Banks said.

As stated under Title IV, Part B of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 or the No Child Left Behind Act, the purpose of the 21st CCLC program is “to provide opportunities for communities to establish or expand activities in community learning centers that provide opportunities for academic enrichment, including providing tutorial services to help students, particularly students who attend low-performing schools, to meet State and local student academic achievement standards in core academic subjects.”

With assistance from each school’s principal and assistant principal, the 21st CCLC program target students who did not score well on the FCAT, Banks said.

“We send out a letter the parents of those kids who did not pass the FCAT the previous year saying we are recruiting those students.”

Banks said the 21st CCLC program is “an extension of the regular school day.” Throughout the week, students in the program receive instruction from certified teachers in key academic subjects like math, reading, writing, language arts and science, he said. Banks added that assistance with homework is also given to students in the program.

The benefits of 21st CCLC program draw large numbers, too many at times. Some students wanting to join the program are not accepted.

Banks said because of the limited amount of funds Leon County Schools receives from the Florida Department of Education some schools have waiting lists. “Because of the teacher-student ratio that we have to follow…we have to cap it at some point,” Banks said.

Candace Thompkins, the 21st CCLC site coordinator at Pineview Elementary, said that it is a first-come first-serve situation.

“The first 150 students that turn in an application are in program,” Thompkins said.

Thompkins said students usually do not end up waiting too long because of the regularity of students being kicked out of the program.

“Kids get dismissed quite often if they fight or are blatantly disrespectful, or if kids are picked up late too many times.”

Thompkins said that currently there are about 50 to 75 students who patiently wait to join the program at Pineview. In addition to academics, students can partake in Karate classes, Imani dance classes, arts-and-crafts classes and other activites.

“We always do academics first,” Thompkins said. “We make kids understand that academics is most important.”

She said after taking care of academics students, have enrichment classes in core subjects. Students may, for example, play a mathematics game. Wrapping up the day, children receive snacks and recreation time, Thompkins said.

The efficiency of the 21st CCLC program is undeniable, Banks said.

“It has been effective in increasing the kid’s grades in school and with assisting them in passing the FCAT test,” Banks said.