GRANT WILL HELP FORT WORTH IMPROVE AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS

Programming Lego robots is all about math, Wedgwood Middle School eighth-grader Quincy Mullins explains.

He and his team have spent their time in an after-school program building a small robot that must navigate a course without hitting the wall.

“The robot moves 6.5 inches per one rotation, so we just divide the length of how far we want it to go by that rotation and then calculate the degree of a turn we need it to make and program it in,” Mullins said.

Mullins is one of hundreds of children across Fort Worth who participate in after-school programs that provide opportunities to have fun — and learn.

City and area school district officials say a $765,000 grant that kicks in next month will help them take inventory and improve the programs.

The Wallace Foundation selected nine cities, including Fort Worth, to receive $7.8 million in grants. The foundation, based in New York, aims to improve education and enrichment opportunities in places where more than half the public school children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

In Fort Worth, officials will begin by building a database of the current after-school programs. Then they can try to fill gaps.

They will work with providers and school districts within Fort Worth to develop standards to help improve the programs.

While the guidelines won’t dictate the curriculum, the goal is to have well-rounded programs that include various educational and fine-arts aspects, said Sheri Endsley, a district superintendent with the city’s Parks and Community Services Department. The standards will also help ensure that programs have adequate staff-to-children ratios and that those involved have training in areas such as CPR.

“We’re not talking a stringent standard because every program is unique,” Endsley said. “We don’t want a cookie cutter, but we want them to have quality so that Mom or Dad can feel comfortable putting their child in any program and know that the quality is going to be there.”

Officials will also look at how a board or other organization can help guide efforts across the city and raise money for needs.

Fort Worth After School’s board oversees efforts at about 85 Fort Worth school district campuses. The city offers an additional 19 programs at community centers and other programs in the Crowley, Keller and White Settlement districts.

Miguel Garcia, who directs Fort Worth After School’s programs for the district, said everyone is committed to developing quality programs and looking at reliable data to determine whether they are helping students improve in school.

“If we have a common database, we can track kids’ progress with their grades, attendance and even see if discipline referrals are going down to see if there is a correlation between well-structured after-school programs and academics,” Garcia said.

“Everyone has their own idea of what success looks like for them. But we will try to standardize it some so that everyone will know that the quality is there and that these are structured enrichment programs for their children.”

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.

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