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$7.1 million grant will create extensive extended day programs for Monticello families  

Jan. 31, 2018

Governor Andrew Cuomo at KLRIn November of 2017, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo arrived at Kenneth L. Rutherford Elementary School to announce that Monticello Central School District (MCSD) had been chosen as one of several schools in the state to receive funding through the Empire State After-School Program. Monticello, he told a sea of cheering students and staff, would receive nearly $7.1 million to expand the district’s after-school programs for its elementary students.

“This grant is going to enable us to create a safety net for our most vulnerable students and their families and provide enrichment opportunities for all,” Executive Director of After-School Programs Dana Taylor said. “We’ve designed a holistic plan that we believe will not only help our students grow academically, it will enable them to develop new interests and explore opportunities that they may not even have known existed.”

Using feedback from Monticello families and the students themselves, the district has prepared a plan for its grant-funded programming, balancing the needs of the families with student interests. The over-arching goals of the programming include: improving academic achievement, developing social and emotional wellness skills and creating a sense of connectedness within the Monticello community. When the plan is approved by the state, students in the Monticello Central School District won’t have any excuses for boredom outside of the regular school day.

students cheer when Cuomo announces after-school fundingIn the proposed plan, students and families will be able to choose from a menu of options that will best meet their needs. While some students may participate in just one after-school extra-curricular activity, others may need extensive academic support several times per week. Other students may need both before and after-school care five days per week. The program will also include enrichment opportunities on the weekends as well as expansions to the existing Summer Learning Academy.

“Our goal is to eliminate any barriers that our Monticello families may be facing in providing these children with new opportunities and experiences,” Superintendent of Schools Tammy Mangus said. “We have parents who wish they could spend more time helping their child with his or her homework, but are working three jobs to make ends meet. We have other parents who would love to take their children to museums or historical sites but don’t have the transportation to do so. This program will fill in those gaps so that we are not only helping our students succeed, but we are strengthening the most foundational level of any community – the family.

Existing MCSD employees will serve as the program staff whenever possible. Certified teachers will serve as tutors for students who are in need of academic support. Monticello High School students who are involved in the My Brother’s Keeper program will serve as peer mentors and role models to the youngest students. Families will be invited to play a large role in the program, through volunteering, participating in weekly family engagement events and by experiencing new places and opportunities alongside their children on field trips scheduled throughout the year.

“These are the people who know our kids and our district best,” Ms. Taylor said. “Each student will be surrounded by familiar adults committed to his or her overall success with lines of communication flowing freely between the program’s staff, the students’ teachers and parents. We hope that this model will help ensure academic improvement, reinforcement of the skills students are learning in the classroom and create opportunities for students to develop new interests and pique their curiosity.”

Cuomo on stage at KLRThere will be a wealth of enrichment clubs including but not limited to: STEAM, geography, robotics, cooking, yearbook, animal sciences, gardening and writing clubs.

With Sullivan County ranking 61 out of 62 New York state counties in terms of health, the proposed program also strives to create a culture of health and wellness through social and emotional wellness and physical wellness opportunities, including nutrition education, fitness clubs, yoga and civic service opportunities.

“We believe that a sense of connectedness and purpose to the greater community is a vital part of emotional health,” Ms. Taylor said. “This community is fortunate to have so many resources and opportunities in its own backyard and it’s truly a testament to their commitment to future of this community to have them collaborate with MCSD so that the students of this district can thrive. Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Town of Wallkill Boys and Girls Club are already involved in the program, and we are working with numerous other organizations including Catskill Regional’s Warrior Kids Program, Catholic Charities, Sullivan Renaissance and Catskill Edible Gardens to broaden our offerings and really show our families all the opportunities that they have available to them right here in Sullivan County.”

students from George L. Cooke Elementary School's Environmental ClubAlthough the district has not been given a timeline for state approval, it is hopeful that it will be able to launch the before and after-school program by the fall of the 2018-19 school year. After school club expansion is set to begin as early as March 2018. The district will post updates to this process as they become available.

If the enthusiasm of some of the members of George L. Cooke Elementary School’s Environmental Club, is any indication, Monticello students are excited for these new opportunities to come to fruition.

“I love the Environmental Club,” Cooke student Joseph Campbell said. “It’s interesting to work with the environment outside and my favorite part was when we got to do imprints of a tree’s bark.”

“We learn all about the environment – the birds, the trees, the plants” student Macy Miros chimed in. “If I wasn’t here, I’d just be at home chilling with my cat. This is a lot more fun.”