The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley, in conjunction with the Gardiner-area and Sheepscot Valley school districts, has secured a $320,000 grant to provide educational support to club members for the next four years.

Ingrid Stanchfield

Ingrid Stanchfield, chief executive officer of the clubs, said Monday the funding in the form of an expansion grant, allows the Boys & Girls Clubs to continue to provide the same kind of educational support it currently provides, but to more students in more locations. The grant application included more grades, and added programs for students in Chelsea and Windsor, both part of Regional School Unit 12.

The source of the grant is the federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. The program promotes creating community learning centers to give children academic support in core subjects like reading and math outside of school hours. The focus is on children attending schools with high poverty rates or that are low-performing.

This is the fourth such grant the club has been awarded, and it is intended to reach more children in more grades.

Over the next four years, the Gardiner organization plans to use the funds in programs to help students at the Gardiner and Chelsea clubhouses in grades three through eight improve fall and spring test scores in literacy and math. Club officials anticipate a range of programs to include tutoring or enrichment in art or in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as programs to support physical and mental health.

Stanchfield said Holly Jordan, director of the CCLC program, works closely with teachers in the school district to complement what children are learning in the classroom.

But putting the funds to work won’t start until the fall.

“This will be the first year in 17 that we haven’t had a summer program,” Stanchfield said.

Because of statewide public health restrictions, the Gardiner-based Boys & Girls Club is operating only its child care program this summer, and providing curbside pick up of free breakfast and lunch for kids up to age 18.

Thanks to a waiver offered by the state Department of Education, Stanchfield said club officials can take the summer to plan the expanded program, and start in the fall in conjunction with the new school year and carry through the summer.

“We’re under the assumption that kids are going to need more support than they have ever needed to get caught back up,” she said.

In March, school districts across the state closed their school buildings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. When the closures extended past the initial two-week period, districts created and launched distance education programs in a bid to keep students learning.

In all, the Maine Department of Education has issued $2 million in competitive grants to organizations that submitted proposals earlier this year. Sixteen organizations applied, and 10 awards were made, Travis Doughty, state coordinator for the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program, said.

Of the 10 awardees, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley received the largest sum, $320,000.

Stanchfield said she expects at least 40 students to take part in Gardiner, and at least 20 each in Chelsea and Windsor, but Jordan has always been successful in attracting children to take part.

“We’re checking to see if that can include students in Whitefield and Palermo,” Stanchfield said, which like Chelsea and Windsor are part of RSU 12.

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