Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg district to launch new after-school program for 3rd-, 4th-graders

Susan Sneath, the Harrisburg school district’s chief academic officer, gave a presentation on charter school costs during Monday night’s business meeting.

The Harrisburg school district plans to launch a new after-school program meant to give an academic boost to third- and fourth-grade students.

Near the end of Monday night’s school board/business meeting, officials announced that the district will leverage a $470,000 federal grant to start a multi-faceted program that will include after-school learning, educational and support services and a free dinner, Monday through Thursday, to qualified students in those grades, said Susan Sneath, the district’s chief academic officer.

“We will be serving eligible third- and fourth-grade students based on data, based on what they need, following a very specific daily schedule to ensure that not only are we targeting their academic needs in the afternoon, but we’re also including some emotional and social skills training,” Sneath said.

The U.S. Department of Education’s “21st Century Community Learning Center Program” is meant to offer extra assistance to students in high-poverty and low-performing school districts.

Sneath said that 545 third- and fourth-grade students in the district qualify for the program, which will begin at the end of November. Enrollment, which is optional, will be on a first-come, first-served basis as the funding level can accommodate only 420 to 450 students, she said.

At the meeting, Sneath said that the district chose to target those two grade levels because of their importance in the educational and social development of children.

“The research is very clear that, if we can get our children up to grade level, by the time they’re at the end of their 3rd-grade year, their chances for a successful graduation from high school increase significantly,” she said.

Chris Celmer, the district’s acting assistant superintendent, said district staff analyzed how best to leverage the grant in a way that met federal mandates and responded to the needs of the community.

“There are very stringent guidelines for the 21st Century Program, and we will follow them 100-percent to the tee,” he said. “That’s really what led to the change in the program, as well as targeting the program for the betterment of certain students that need that extra assistance.”

Sneath said that this program, while limited, represents a return to all-day academic and support programming for Harrisburg students.

“There used to be in this district quite a comprehensive after-school program,” she said. “However, the funding for that has diminished significantly. So, we have to rethink the way that we target that school intervention.”

In other meeting news:

  • Sneath gave a presentation saying that the cost of tuition paid by the district to charter schools has increased significantly in recent years, rising from $11.1 million in the 2016-17 school year to $14.8 million in the 2018-19 school year. Most of the increase was attributable to greater payments to cyber charter schools.
  • Celmer provided a treasurer’s report that stated that the district had a general fund balance of $41.5 million as of Sept. 30. He also said that the district will kick off budget planning for the 2020-21 school year with a workshop on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Administration Building.
  • Receiver Janet Samuels approved an updated contract with Lemoyne-based realtor Landmark Commercial Realty for the sale of the former William Penn High School campus. The district has the property, which includes the large, blighted school building and about five acres of land at Italian Lake, on the market for $2.5 million.
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