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Kindergarten and first-grade students in five Bedford County school districts will be able to attend after-school programming this year.

The Bedford County 21st Century Community Learning Centers Consortium received an extra $506,000 in grant funding for the upcoming school year, in part to expand its after-school program to include kindergarten and first grade students, according to Lyn Skillington, project co-director.

The programming will be available for students in the Bedford, Chestnut Ridge, Everett, Northern Bedford and Tussey Mountain school districts.

“Now is the time to enroll your children,” Skillington said about the program, which has limited enrollment. “Parents can contact their school to get enrollment information.”

While the After 3 program will begin Sept. 3 for older children, those in kindergarten and first grade will be phased in later in the month.

“We want to let the younger students get into the swing of things at school first,” Skillington said.

First graders will begin the program the third week of September, while kindergarten students will begin the following week.

Skillington said she expects between 550 and 600 elementary students to participate in the program this year. The consortium received a combined $1.4 million in state Department of Education grants this year due to the increase in funding.

Skillington said the latest grant is for five years.

The program had previously been available to elementary students in grades two through five, as well as middle and high school students in grades six to 12.

Elementary students will be divided into two groups — kindergarten through second grade and third grade through fifth, Skillington said.

While the youngest grades may not have much homework compared with older students, Skillington said the program will support their education through tutors and activities.

“The K-2 group has a lot of academically focused games and other activities,” she said.

Those activities include arts projects, lessons about healthy food and computer coding, even for the youngest students.

Skillington said the students will complete age-specific online coding lessons using iPads, tablets, Chromebooks and other devices.

The program runs from after school until 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Skillington said transportation is provided for students and most sites provide a healthy snack.

Skillington said the consortium has received more than $16 million in grant funding to support its after school program since 2002. The program supports about 100 staff positions, including site coordinators and tutors, as well as support from other organizations.

Enrollment in the program is based on available funding due to staffing limits.

“We try to keep the student to tutor ratio at 1 to 10 or 1 to 15,” Skillington said. “The more money we have, the more staff we can hire.”

Skillington said the program is beneficial to the academic development of students and can lead to better grades and state test scores.

Information on the after school program is available by contacting the respective participating school districts.

Contact Will DeShong at wdeshong@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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