Schools awarded #036;225,000 summer program grant

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2005

Working parents know the problem: What do you do with your children during the summer in a small town with limited summer activities?

Louise and Alvin Sullivan hit upon one local program three years ago where their daughter, Shelby, who will be entering third grade next year, can spend her summer in a structured, safe, educational environment while mom and dad are at the office.

The summer program is a two-tiered approach funded, in part, by a recent 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant obtained for W.O. Parmer and Greenville Elementary Schools. The $225,000 grant will be allocated evenly over the next three years for summer school and summer camp activities for children who sign up for the program. While space is limited to 80-85 children on a first come, first serve basis, Louise Sullivan said the program is more than just babysitting; it's a structured learning environment where her daughter can learn new things.

"The programs are just so good and they help her into the next school year," said Sullivan, who works as a clerk for Boan Contracting. "I know last year she asked me to sign her up for cooking. It was a different experience for her and she really enjoyed it."

Sullivan, whose husband works as a firefighter for the City of Greenville, said the program is not all fun and games. Shelby attends summer school in the mornings where she hones her skills in reading and math, then heads over to summer camp in the afternoon where they participate in numerous fun activities, all for only $35 for the entire six week program, the cost of which includes lunch.

"You can't get a babysitter for a week for that," Sullivan says with a laugh.

Wanda Norris, who taught second grade for 24 years and now serves as a reading coach at W.O. Parmer says the summer programs are an invaluable tool to both the children and the educators who teach the classes. She's worked with the summer programs the last four years and said the flexibility of the teaching methods is one benefit for the educators, but the end result is a better prepared child the next school year.

"To me it's the best program we offer because it let's (students) progress, sometimes even further than they would be when the new year starts," she said. "As a teacher you get to try some things that you always wanted to do and incorporate some things that are fun but educational as well."

One of the programs, says Norris, is a reading program that helps children who may have been a bit behind in the skill when the school year ended.

"We had children last year who really bloomed when the new school year started and would not have done so had it not been for this program," she said.

Gerry Adair, grant coordinator for the Butler County School System, said there has been more than 2,000 children benefit from the summer program and it gives parents the comfort of knowing their children are in structured, safe environment during the summer.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for parents. They don't have to worry about whether their children are being served and they can participate in activities they may not be able to do otherwise," said Adair, who helped secure a $1 million grant a few years ago for similar programs at the two schools in addition to R.L. Austin and Greenville Middle School.

The cost for summer school, which is taught from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., is $20 and summer camp, which is each weekday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., is $15. The $35 combined cost covers each six week program.

Space is limited and registration forms can be picked up at each school or at the Central Office.