Published 12:20 am Saturday, January 3, 2015

Andy Wiggins paints at the Woodson Learning Center on Friday.

Andy Wiggins paints at the Woodson Learning Center on Friday.

After-school program starts Tuesday

When Andalusia City Schools dismissed for the holidays on Dec. 19, Andalusia Middle School was still a middle school.

Come Tuesday, the building will be known as the Woodson Learning Center, and come Tuesday afternoon, it will house a brand new after-school program called APPLE for 148 Andalusia City Schools students from kindergarten to eighth grade.

City officials and those involved with the project have spent the holidays preparing the facility. Students will be bused there each afternoon, and activities continue until 6 p.m.

“Tuesday the children will come for the first time and be introduced to the facility,” Cece Lotierzo, a site manager for the program, said. “Our goal is to improve attendance and academics in school. Any student absent from school that day will not be allowed to come to the after school program.”

Not coming to the program will cause students to miss out on many enriching activities.

Lotierzo and Program Director Caitlin Shipman said some of the programs include a Spanish class called Fiesta; yoga; hip-hop and stomping dance; art; master gardening in the greenhouse; computer lab; social room; imagination room; and arts and crafts room.

Members of the Andalusia Rotary Club have committed to spending an afternoon each week teaching kids to play dominoes, something Lotierzo said she thinks they can take into the social room as well.

The programs are intended for enrichment and as fun ways to learn without the students realizing they are learning.

Lotierzo said she has designed a monthly agenda to ensure each child would have an opportunity to visit each program.

“My goal within the next few weeks is to have all the kids in every group cover every program,” Lotierzo said. “That way they can decide what they enjoy best and see how to schedule it that way.”

Some of the programs will be structured and consistent, but others will be based on volunteers coming in to direct other programs.

“We hope to have some guest speakers,” Lotierzo said. “We have the entire kitchen area, so maybe we can have someone come in for a cooking class.”

Sports will also be involved as the program has use of the gym.

“There will be athletics, a different sport each week,” Shipman said. “We’ll have field hockey, football, volleyball, archery, soccer and basketball.”

Not only will kids have the opportunity to learn from these activities and socialize with peers, they’ll be working on academics with the teachers on staff.

“If a child needs tutoring, we will have individual or group tutoring,” Lotierzo said. “They’ll have a snack when they first come, and then do homework in the cafeteria.”

Lotierzo said they will be in contact with teachers to determine students’ areas of need, and will help students with homework they may not have help with at home.

“There will be two teachers and two teachers’ aids here every day from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. to provide one-on-one tutoring,” Shipman said.

A mid-year survey will also be implemented to determine how students have improved through the program.

Although 168 students made it into the program, there are still many on the waiting list.

“If you as a parent did not fill out the parent contract, you should be receiving a letter saying your child was replaced and put on the waiting list,” Shipman said.

A three-year, $600,000 21st Century Learning Grant awarded in October made the program possible, and Shipman said their goal is to also have a summer program with it.

“The mayor (Earl Johnson) came up with this whole idea, he deserves all the credit,” Shipman said. “He really cares about the kids and has really pushed us to do this.”