CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dozens of students on a waiting list for tutoring sessions in the extended learning program at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School will get those sessions, thanks to a grant from the American Federation of Teachers.The $10,000 grant will provide more teachers to staff the enrichment program and will be enough to sustain it through the school year, said Mary Snow Principal Mellow Lee."With federal funding we receive, we could pay for three tutors a day, but there was no way we could do it a full year," Lee said. "Now we can."The after-school program, implemented last year, offers students an extra hour of instruction in addition to recreational activities and free dinner.
More than 50 students are already a part of the program, with more than 75 on the waiting list."The tutoring segment of the program is hands-on in small groups, to focus on student needs. It's directed toward each student to zone in on what they have trouble with, and we've seen a real difference in students just from that extra time and opportunity each day," Lee said.The program is especially beneficial to at-risk students, Lee said. Nearly 100 percent of the elementary school's students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and the program, which lasts through 6 p.m. each day, helps working parents."I think all of our parents want a safe place for students to stay after school. This is wonderful for parents who work over and can know their children are not only being provided for, but are getting more of an educational experience," Lee said. "Our students need any extra opportunity we can provide them."The AFT has funded a community liaison for Mary Snow Elementary for the past three years to help turn around the school."We are finally able to bring the structure to what staff and community leaders felt was needed most in the school. There is a lot of absenteeism and tardiness that goes on there. This targets basic skills, homework and other enrichment services," said Judy Hale, president of AFT's West Virginia chapter. "We're trying to get more parents involved in the school and get all parts to work together. We're setting goals, and we want more parents volunteering."Hale said the need for the program is clear."The surprising thing is there's even a waiting list. We want to make sure that all of the children that want this help can have access to it, so we want to provide the teachers and whatever else we can," she said.The school is also working with University of Charleston students to implement the program and is looking for more volunteers.Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.