PITTSFIELD -- Herberg Middle School soon will be a happening place after regular school hours, thanks to a new federal grant.
Herberg is slated to receive $145,000 a year for the next three years as a recipient of a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. The grant, which is distributed through the state, targets schools wanting to offer students before- and/or- after-school academic enrichment programs.
The program currently is being set up with administrators and curriculum, and should be up and running by the end of the month, officials said.
"We're very excited," said Herberg Principal Chris Jacoby, "Our kids are really crying out for after-school programming."
The program will be offered in two, two-day sessions per week during the school year, Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students may be eligible to sign-up for one or both sessions, to be facilitated by the school. The school can host up to 30 students per session.
The focus of the after-school programs will be giving students enrichment opportunities in the STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- fields, as well as creating family engagement opportunities to better connect students, parents and siblings to the school's faculty and staff.
"I really believe this will be a springboard to improve teaching and learning at Herberg," Baker said.
Liz Baker, Pittsfield Public Schools' district coordinator for 21st Century learning programs, said she is currently working to hire a site coordinator, program coordinator and teachers.
Jacoby said Baker was "instrumental" in helping Herberg staff form a committee last spring to outline the school's needs, survey parents and students about what they'd like to see, and to complete the application. Jacoby said he and his staff will look to its city counterpart, Reid Middle School, as a model for how to implement Herberg's new program.
With support of the new grant award, all four of the city's public secondary schools, including Pittsfield and Taconic high schools, Reid and now Herberg all will offer after-school programs funded by 21st Century Community Learning Centers-funded after- school programs.
"We don't have a lot of after-school programming because we [didn't] have the money to support it. This provides the money that we need to pay for materials, stipends for the teachers and coordinators to run an after-school and also a summer program," Jacoby said. "We can't start it soon enough."
Baker said the program already has received support and partnership interest from area cultural and environmental organizations, as well as individual community and city council members.
The only major challenge to successfully implementing the program, said Baker, is the current government shutdown. She said the federally funded 21st Century program was affected by federal budget (sequestration) cuts.
"I worry about the whole government," she said, adding that Herberg was "lucky" to receive the grant given the current state of Congress.
She said Herberg initially applied for a grant amount of $175,000 per year; none of the nine state recipients in the recent round of grant awards received more than $145,000.
Baker and Jacoby said they're willing to work with whatever funds they have to supplement programs for students. In addition to new 21st Century programs to be announced, Herberg also offers intramural sports to between 60 and 80 kids, as well as a solar car club, 4-H youth programs and a robotics club.
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