Starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, Montrose County School District will be kicking off the Extended Learning Network for elementary school students, a new after-school program that will offer after-school childcare and educational enrichment.

The after-school programs, which will end at 5:30 p.m., cost $5 per day. District staff are hoping that the programs not only offer working parents after-school childcare but will supplement the academic program during the bulk of the day.

Middle- and high-school programs are expected to start in October.

An on-site option will not be available at Peak Virtual Academy, but online and hybrid families are allowed to participate at any location.

Jessica Beller, the district’s executive director of academic services, said that disengaged students are less likely to be doing well in school.

“The more opportunities we provide that they’re excited to be part of something, or want to continue to come to school, then we’re engaging them,” Beller said.

Kristen Takara, one of the program’s coordinators, added that if students form more meaningful relationships with each other and trusted adults, they are better suited to succeed.

In previous years, an after-school program was only operated out of Pomona Elementary: students from other schools needed to take a bus to the program. Because of an influx of federal grant money, the school is extending the program to offer students at most district schools.

At the elementary level, programs will focus on supporting social-emotional well being. For high school students, students will be able to receive academic support for and help with SAT preparation. Moreover, a quiet environment and drop-in homework help will be available to all high school students for free, regardless of enrollment in the program.

The Extended Learning Network is primarily funded by a series of grants from the federal government that allocated billions of dollars to school districts around the country during the earlier phases of the pandemic. The third round of funding includes a stipulation that at least 20% of the grant is spent on extended learning programs.

Of the more than $14 million MCSD has been allotted, approximately $1 million have been spent so far. School districts have until the end of 2024 to spend most of the money.

The cost per child is $5 per day, but scholarships are available for families who need financial assistance.

“We don’t want any kid to not be able to participate just because a family couldn’t afford it,” Christie Knoll, one of the program’s coordinators, said.

Beller said that the tuition cost will ensure the fiscal sustainability of the program beyond when the federal grant money expires in 2024.

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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