PRIEST RIVER — For five years, the 21st Century Community Learning Center has offered tutoring and other academic enrichment opportunities to West Bonner County students.
The program was funded by a grant through the Idaho Department of Education, and while the state lacked the funding for a grant competition this year, Priest River’s program will continue into the 2019-2020 school year nonetheless. West Bonner County School District trustees voted in favor of hiring program director Cherie Coldwell on full time to not only keep the program going, but also to be the district’s grant writer.
The district is not footing the entire bill for the program, as Coldwell said she received an anonymous donation of $20,000 to help sustain it through next year.
“Between that donation and what is in my donation account, I have more than enough to offer credit recovery in all core subjects next year,” Coldwell told district officials during the May 15 WBCSD meeting, adding that limited transportation and snacks will still be covered as well.
To keep the program running as is, the board approved $50,450, with WBCSD Superintendent Paul Anselmo clarifying the total amount is not Coldwell’s salary, but also includes benefits, payroll deductions and other expenses. In addition, WBCSD business manager and board clerk Jennifer Anselmo said applying for and tracking grants is “extremely” time consuming for staff, so having Coldwell serve as a grant writer will eventually pay for itself.
The 21st Century Community Learning Center is an after-school program held at Priest River Lamanna High School, with the option for junior high students to attend as well. Coldwell said 98 students were registered for the 2018-2019 school year, with an average daily attendance of 18. The students are offered courses for credit recovery, as well as music, a writing workshop, Kung Fu, metal working, art, fishing lures, cybersecurity, drones and more.
PRLHS Principal Joe Kren said with the program at the high school, they would continue to include junior high students. The program generally allows eighth-grade students, though seventh-graders have participated when they have good grades and can show they are mature enough to participate at the high school level, Coldwell said.
Coldwell said the grant competition is expected to resume next year, so the district would once again be eligible to apply.
“I think the program is very valuable,” Paul Anselmo said. “We do provide sports as after school activities, but for kids who aren’t participating in sports, or for those that do ... this certainly provides other outlets for kids.”
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