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Nespelem will pull out of SHARP Kids


After several years of collaboration, two local school districts will go their own way next year as they seek to augment students’ education with after-school programs.

Nespelem’s school board last week voted to follow a different path, leaving the Grand Coulee Dam School District to apply for the next five years of funding for its SHARP Kids program on its own.

The SHARP acronym stands for Safe, Honest, Aware, Respectful, Present. The program is the local implementation of the use of federal funds through the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant program to “provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools,” the CLC website explains.

The Nespelem School District currently has about 100 students in grades one through eight enrolled in the program, and Grand Coulee Dam has about 160 in fifth through 12th grades, estimates program Director Lee B. Seekins.

“It's always a little bittersweet to end a partnership,” Seekins said of the decision, “but needs change and sometimes new opportunities must be pursued to meet those needs.”

Nespelem Superintendent John Adkins told the school board he understood the program would impose some new requirements he didn’t think fit with the needs of Nespelem School, which is currently a “priority school” under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and focused on specific improvements in reading and math test scores.

Although the 21st Century program will emphasize academics, it will go about it in a different way, offering programs like robotics to pique academic interests in kids.

Nespelem is currently paying teachers out of district funds to stay longer in the day and tutor students. The grant program won’t pay for that, but would require its own on-site supervisor next year, Adkins said.

He advocated staying the course with the district’s own program, dropping SHARP Kids, for which he currently gets paid $700 a month through the grant as the on-site supervisor.

“It’s about quality of program,” Adkins said. “When your home room teachers say, ‘OK, I want to keep my most at-risk kids for another hour and fifteen minutes … and help them, you can’t do any better than that.”

School board Director Nancy Armstrong-Montes, who retired as a Nespelem teacher last year and was elected to the board, said she didn’t think the 21st Century program worked for Nespelem students. She moved to drop the program for the 2014-2015 school year, and the motion passed.

Seekins said the development would mean Grand Coulee Dam’s application will look different this year, but that the district has a strong case for getting the grant even without Nespelem.

“I believe that the GCDSD's pursuit of a new grant is a good decision for our families and students,” Seekins said. “The grant application will look different for sure, but I believe that we can offer quality programs to meet the unique needs of our diverse community.”

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