NORTH ANSON — It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a plan to resurrect a school.
That was the message at Carrabec High School, where it was announced Wednesday that the district will receive a federal grant to bring between 20 and 40 AmeriCorps volunteers to the school this year.
The district is one of four in the state that will share in a $2.2 million grant to be administered through Learning Works, a Portland-based educational organization. AmeriCorps is a federally run volunteer program whose goal is to overcome social and economic challenges in communities across the country.
“I am so thrilled with the possibilities this initiative is going to bring Carrabec High School. It will enable us to continue the work we have started to build relationships with and rigor for our students,” Principal Regina Campbell said.
Just three years ago, Carrabec failed to meet No Child Left Behind Act federal standards and was designated as a school in need of improvement; and although Maine recently received a two-year waiver from the act’s requirements, the school had made progress toward meeting them.
A federal grant of $726,800 allowed the school to add eight advanced placement courses, dual-enrollment classes at Thomas College and Kennebec Valley Community College and 11 honors-level courses.
The graduation rate has increased nine percentage points, from 75 percent in 2009 to 84 percent in 2012, according to the Department of Education. Student proficiency rates measured by the SAT have increased from 17 percent in mathematics to 50 percent and from 17 percent in reading to 44 percent, according to Campbell.
The grant announced Wednesday will allow that progress to continue, Campbell said during a meeting with officials from Learning Works and the Maine Commission for Community Service, the state affiliate of the Corporation for Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program.
In its application for the grant, the high school was required to explain how it would use the money and the roles volunteers would take on in their school community. The district serves students in Anson, Embden, New Portland, North Anson and Solon.
Campbell said volunteers will work on four things — one-on-one tutoring, extended learning opportunities before and after school, community engagement and parent involvement.
She said volunteers will provide tutoring before and after school and on weekends in the hopes of having resources for students accessible around-the-clock through technology such as student iPhones and laptops. During the school day, they will run writing and mathematics laboratories and community service projects.
Volunteers are expected to start around the end of the first quarter of the coming school year, Campbell said. They haven’t been identified yet, but Learning Works chief executive officer Ethan Strimling said they are advertising all over the country.
School Administrative District 74 Superintendent Ken Coville said the award was applied for in mid-July through Learning Works, which will oversee the administration of the grant to Carrabec High School and four other schools in the state that received it. The others are Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, Ellsworth High School in Ellsworth, East End Elementary School in Portland and Riverton Elementary School in Portland.
Learning Works is a nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing educational opportunity to young children, at-risk youth and low-income families. They were one of 13 organizations in the nation to receive the grant, which will place more than 650 volunteers in schools across the U.S.
Mary Anne LaMarre, commissioner for the Maine Commission for Community Service, said that rural school districts often face tough competition in applying for federal grants.
“From a federal perspective, it is easier to look at places like Atlanta, Hartford or Boston, where there are a lot of students and the potential for a lot of change,” she said.
In rural areas, there are fewer students spread out over a larger area, LaMarre said. For instance, the new AmeriCorps grant will need to be administered in four school districts in four different corners of the state, which can present a challenge to overseeing how the money is spent.
There are also fewer students, which means that the money may not be reaching as many people, she said.
Carrabec’s demonstrated improvement over the last three years is part of the reason it received the award, she said.
“It’s difficult, trying to show impact and change in a three-year period of time,” LaMarre said.
Strimling said anyone over 17, including seniors at Carrabec High School, is eligible to apply to become an AmeriCorps volunteer. One benefit of the program is that volunteers can receive educational stipends based on the number of hours they volunteer that can be used to pay for college.
Volunteers over age 55 are also allowed to transfer the award to a child or grandchild to cover educational costs, Strimling said.
School board Chairman Robert Demchak said the opportunity for students is one of the best facets of the grant.
“It will give them a little experience working with others and the possibility to look at teaching as a career,” he said.
Coville said that the district has had AmeriCorps volunteers before, but not to this extent.
“We’ve been going through a turnaround for a while, and this is a way to continue to work on that progress,” he said.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368