Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Roger Dey
BVD 

Lincoln School loses POUNCE after school, summer program funding

 

Roger Dey

Lincoln-area kids in POUNCE take part inSculpture in the 2018 Sculpture in the Wild's Summer Education program last June. BPSW Education Program Director Annette Gardner said the loss of POUNCE, which has partnered with the sculpture park on the program, probably won't mean an end to the program, but it will require BPSW to take on additional responsibilities to make it happen.

Lincoln School's POUNCE Program, which for ten years has offered after school programs throughout the school year and educational, cultural and recreational opportunities every summer for Lincoln kids, learned last week it wouldn't receive funding for next year.

The program has been funded through a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, but wasn't among the schools selected to receive funding this year.

With funding set to expire June 30, Lincoln Schools POUNCE Program Director Jackie Grantier had been waiting to hear whether the school's application had been successful. About two weeks ago, after hearing that other schools had received word, she contacted the Montana Office of Public Instruction for information. She received a letter on June 26 saying they wouldn't receive funding. the last day for the program was June 27. An incorrect e-mail address apparently caused the delayed notification.

"It was actually a small blessing for me to find out right before our summer program finished up," Grantier told the BVD. "I didn't have the information on my mind, and that helped me stay upbeat and ready to work with the kids."

"It was pretty devastating news to get," said Lincoln School Counselor Kathy Heisler, who served as superintendent when the school launched its POUNCE Program.

The school had been successful in their 21st Century grant applications every year, but they're competitive grants and a new law brought changes to the application requirements.

Heisler explained that all school districts are now following the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, which supplanted No Child Left Behind and sets the parameters for the grants.

"The accountability and the data collection have increased significantly for all districts," she said.

The grant requirements included an larger focus on academic outcome, regular attendance and the use of a consortium of school districts.

She explained that, until this year, the Lincoln, Augusta, Helmville and Ovando school districts had formed the consortium, with the money and all the applicant information flowing through Lincoln as the "prime applicant district."

However, the added reporting requirements under ESSA led Helmville and Ovando to opt out this year, leaving only Lincoln and Augusta in the consortium.

"Just being a small district, the teachers have to do all of the data and information (collection), along with all the other requirements that have been put on schools," she said. "It was just additional requirements that they didn't want to have to do. It's tough with the small schools when you're required to do everything, and you have just a couple teachers."

Heisler said they made efforts to find other schools willing to sign on, without success.

The loss of the popular program will impact a significant portion of the Lincoln student body.

"Last year we had, on average, 20 kids every day. We offered piano lessons, choir, Pokémon club, AV club, and we sent kids to Missoula for Battle of the Books. Kids loved staying after school to go to POUNCE," Grantier said.

It will also have an impact on working parents.

"Parents have appreciated having a safe place for their kids to go until they got off work," she added. "That was huge, since daycare is limited in town."

Shanda Richards, whose daughter Preslie participated in POUNCE, new Grantier was waiting for word and held out hopes that the funding would come through.

"I don't know what I'm going to do next year," she said. "I work 'til 5:30."

Richards said she has family in Lincoln who may be able to help, but she knows there are some parents in town who don't have the same support.

The loss of funding will affect Lincoln High School students as well the younger kids.

"After we lost our Gear Up grant, we built in going to the college career fairs and college visits into the 21st Century grant," Heisler said. "We lose a lot of benefits and experiences and opportunities for kids."

"This is a huge blow to our small town," Grantier said. Nevertheless, she said they are looking at their options to keep POUNCE alive.

Grantier and teachers who help with the program spoke to Jen Packer, Lincoln's new superintendent, Heisler and school Clerk Carol Williams about other options for funding POUNCE during the next school year.

"Once we have a plan in place we will talk to the school board members, to get their approval to look for smaller grants and fundraisers," Grantier said. "After that, we will try to get the community on board to make this work for our kids. We want to get funding to run the program after school like we have for the last 10 years."

Heisler said they are also looking at ways to beef up their applications next year, but has concerns about efforts to slash the 21st Century grant program at the federal level

The program was on the chopping block in the Trump administration's 2019 budget, but Congress appropriated $1.22 billion to keep it alive. The proposed 2020 budget again has it slated to be entirely defunded.

"The Afterschool Alliance had been lobbying hard in D.C. for all schools," Granter said. "I think the representatives will continue to support funding for our schools, because these small people are our future. We can't short change them."

 

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