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Northeast Spokane schools get money for learning centers

A community learning center grant allowed Shaw Middle School to take students on field trips to places such at the Bowl and Pitcher.
Photo by Le'Andra Myers
Students in a Spokane Public Schools community learning center grant based at Shaw Middle School enjoyed field trips to places such at the Bowl and Pitcher.

The Spokane School District has been awarded a $2.5 million federal grant to provide more summer and after-school services to students at four northeast neighborhood schools.

The money comes from the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. The district is working with Communities in Schools of Spokane County to support students at Bemiss, Cooper, Regal and Stevens Elementary Schools. Most of the $500,000-a-year-for-five-years grant will pay coordinators to oversee the programs at each of the four schools.

LeAndra Myers, who coordinates the district’s fitness, athletics and after school programs, says some of that support comes in the form of basic supplies.

“Some of our folks are putting together bite-to-go bags for students. Some are getting hygiene products, clothes closets, coats, boots,” she said.

There’s also help with academics, especially reading and math, and outreach to struggling families.

“When a family comes and isn’t sure how to get rental support or they’re on the verge of becoming homeless, they have supports lined up that way. If the student is already homeless, they can connect them with different agencies and make sure they’re connected with the school district folks on that as well,” she said.

Myers says the grant allows each school to shape the way the programs will be implemented.

“They’ve laid out what they want to see in their buildings,” she said. “Some things, like walking school bus, we’re trying to bring that back so that students who aren’t making it to school, having an adult come by and picking them up, it’s maybe the cutest thing, where you’ve got an adult in the front. It looks like ducks coming across the street. They’re just all trudging along together.

“Just having that start to the day, a caring face coming to your door to help you get to your school, we think that will help with attendance, which is one of our measures.”

Myers says this project will be similar to another grant-funded program she developed at Shaw Middle School.

“Before school, a lot of check in, connect, that find-a-friendly-face-in-the-morning and make a connection with an adult. Have a trusted adult there. We also had open gym. So that was what mornings were looking like. Afternoon was more of the academic piece. We would have teachers come down and provide homework support,” she said.

Myers says that program also offered students the chance to learn how to cook, which was popular with kids because a lot of them were hungry.

The grant comes with accountability measures. Myers says there are some academic goals, but also basic measures such as attendance.

“Do we have kids showing up? If not, then it’s a reflection on our communication and the programming we’re providing. Are we meeting the needs of what kids want to see in that time? Do families know that it’s an option?” she said. “Long term, we’ll look at attendance, at behavior. Do kids feel connected to their school? That would be success. And then all of those academic goals.”

Myers says the school district and its partner hope community center programs like these will continue after the initial grand funding. She says Communities in Schools of Spokane County will work to raise money from its donors, while the district will look to other grant sources. She also hopes to be able to implement the model in schools in other parts of the city.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.