Today’s news:

District 30 gets $1M education grant

Standing before a crowd of more than 200 children at PS 149, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) presented an oversized cardboard check for nearly $1 million to School District 30 Superintendent Dr. Angelo Giomondo Monday, delivering a federal grant that will fund the district’s after-school program.

The money will sponsor SD 30’s 21st Century Learning Centers, part of a nationwide program initiated under former President Clinton that offers after-school educational programs community support services.

“The 21st Century Schools Program is designed to extend the school day and to give students the opportunity to enhance their academic education,” said Gus Hatzidimitriou, technology and option schools director for SD 30, who wrote the district’s grant application.

The $960,078 grant was allocated at the end of Clinton’s term when Congress appropriated a $393 million increase in funding for the program, which enabled the Education Department to revisit proposals for which such support was not originally available.

Last year the school district received $231,000 in seed money for the program, which it was to receive again this year until the grant size was quadrupled last month.

The program offers an array of programs while giving students a safe place to go at the end of the school day.

“21st Century Community Learning Center programs aid students of all ages,” Crowley said. “They help middle-school students as they prepare to take college prep courses in high school, provide enrichment in the core academic subjects as well as opportunities to participate in recreational activities and technology programs, while providing services for children and youth with disabilities.”

Crowley played a leading role in pushing the program’s funding increase through Congress, said his press secretary, Josh Straka.

SD 30’s proposal calls for the creation of five learning centers, each of which will have a unique design and academic focus.

Three centers will be based on a model created by The Afterschool Corporation, while another will offer middle-school students an academic program through the Rio Grande Educational Collaborative. Both will be open during the week from the end of the school day to 6 p.m. Another learning center will be open two weekends per month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and provides programs with more than 20 community partners.

“This is so important because we have so many latch-key children who go home to empty houses,” said Giomondo.

By relying heavily on the involvement of community organizations, the learning centers are designed to bring schools and their communities together.

“The school should be the center of the community and not exist in isolation. The community and the school should interact as much as possible,” Hatzidimitriou said.

The after-school program offers a practical extension of the reading, writing, and arithmetic lessons of the school day. “That’s one reason why we held it in the Christa McAuliffe Magnet School for Business and Technology, where we bring the world of work into the world of education,” said Hatzidimitriou.

The announcement followed a Black History Month performance by students in Marcia Elwarari’s second-grade class, who performed an alphabet song that matched each letter with a fact or figure in African-American history.

The students enthusiastically declared that “O” is for “Oprah” and “X” for “Malcolm X,” but they also ventured on the wild side — jamming excitedly and clapping off-beat to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” for “Q,” Queen of Soul.

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