Elementary Tornado Academy offers academics and fun before and after school
he Storm Lake School District's before- and after-school-program is in full swing.
The program's future was looking dim until word was received this summer that a federal $2.1 million grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers was awarded to the district over a five-year period. The Elementary Tornado Academy (ETA) which involves 300-325 public elementary students each weekday, is held at each of the four schools. Coordinators are assigned to each site - Amanda Smith, North; Terry Behrens, East; Erica McAtee, West; and Jill Jackson, South - to oversee the programs. Last year's program operated on a shoestring budget which meant the reduction of sites. With the larger operating budget, it is good to see that all four schools will be utilized.
The goal of the program is to help participants with academics as well as off-setting latch-key kid worries. A little fun and a snack are also important aspects of the program. Any Storm Lake elementary student may take part in the programs, free of charge.
ETA has been a part of the district for several years, always operating on funds obtained form small grants. There is a great deal of feedback on the benefits of the program - from teachers who are seeing that homework assignments are being completed, from parents who are pleased with the idea that their children have a safe place to go after school and from the kids themselves.
Lynn Redenbaugh, director of the program, pointed out that it is sometimes difficult for parents to assist their children with homework. Those parents are relieved that the coordinators and their assistants can help their children in the school setting so that once they get home, family time can come into play with out the worry of doing homework. "That is a nice compliment about this program," she said.
The trend towards before- and after-school-programs at schools is increasing. More grant monies are being made available but competition is also tougher among those schools wanting a piece of the pie.
Grant writers Redenbaugh and Jennifer Movall are very pleased that the district received the large grant. "This community needs a program like this," said Movall. "There are so many parents that work. They need to know that there is a safe place for their kids to go. It would be hard to take this away from them."
Under the guidelines of this new grant, district reporting on academic achievements of the participants will be required. The reports must be sent in annually but the district will put together its own quarterly reports for its own use.
"I think this is a great program," said coordinator Terry Behrens. A veteran with the program. She was the coordinator three other years, had step down because of cutbacks, and is back again, very happily.
Erica McAtee is in her second year. "This is a great opportunity for kids to come to a safe atmosphere instead of going home alone."
Numbers of participants continue to grow.