Polk County targets at-risk students

By: - August 19, 2005 4:54 am

Hendersonville Times News
Scott Parrott
Times-News Staff Writer
[email protected]

COLUMBUS — Polk County Schools may soon launch an after-school and summer day-care program for at-risk students.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education awarded the school system the 21st Century Learning Center Grant.

The grant could add up to more than $1.3 million, supporting day-care programs at the county’s six schools.

"Our hope is that these programs will fulfill a great need for our working families who are most in need of help with quality after-school care," Superintendent Bill Miller said. "So many of our parents work out of town or simply can’t afford to take time off from work when their child’s school day ends."

About 400 of the 2,500 students who attend Polk County Schools are considered at-risk for academic, economic or other reasons.

Educators want to help the students improve their grades through afternoon studies combined with field trips, sports and other fun activities. Plus, the program would allow working parents another option to traditional day care, which can be expensive.

Educators are still trying to fine-tune the program, working with the state Department of Public Instruction.

Miller said he hoped it could launch by February 2006, the second semester of the upcoming school year.

The money should cover much of the cost for an after-school daycare program at the county’s elementary and middle schools — Polk Central, Polk County Middle, Saluda, Sunny View and Tryon Elementary schools.

It also could support a summer program at each of these schools, plus Polk County High.

Educators have yet to determine the exact amount of money Polk County Schools will receive. They will attend an orientation session Aug. 25 and 26 in Raleigh and learn more from the Department of Public Instruction about the grant.

The money should spread over four years. Polk County Schools could receive as much as $400,000 the first two years, $320,000 the third year, and $240,000 the final year.

For the program, Polk County Schools also teamed up with nearly 20 community groups. The groups will help provide counseling, extra classes in art and music and programs on drug and violence prevention.

Contact Parrott at 694-7872 or [email protected].

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066