Monday, July 25, 2016

Local Support For Wrap-Around Services

Several weeks ago the focus of this article was on opportunities for churches and civic organizations to offer mentor and academic support to students who have demonstrated weakness in academic or skill achievement or may not have access to educational resources where they live. This type of partnership is called a wrap-around service because the school day is limited to roughly only 7 hours and this service will offer educational support that “wraps around” some of the other 17 hours.   

Several churches in the county have embraced this concept. Final details are not complete but several common elements of support have emerged:
·      Efforts will begin with a target of supporting 4th and 5th grade students. The church leaders that have responded to the request for additional education support are naturally wanting to start small and focus on the area of greatest need so that there will be early success to build on. Too many students move from elementary school to middle school without a strong foundation in the basic reading, math, and other academic skills. One or two days a week of extra support to reinforce the academic foundation will have a huge impact on the student’s future opportunities for success. The after school programs can grow as more volunteers are identified.
·      School work and after school support will be interconnected. MARi, the Personal Learning Platform that was listed in this article last week as the tool that gives students the opportunity to engage all informal learning activities into school credit, also gives teachers the ability to assign homework that reinforces classroom activities and monitor student progress with assignments. The students will take their assignments on their technology devices to the after school program. The volunteers will be able to know exactly what is expected and only need to monitor that appropriate time and a workspace are available. Mentoring for career literacy and soft skill development will be an extra benefit.
·      Many of our students do not have internet access in their homes. MCPS and the local churches that are offering this service will seek partnerships with local Internet providers to place access for student use in the church buildings.
·      Discussions have focused on partners for wrap around services to make them available from roughly 3:30 to 6:30PM. This will give time for students to engage in some physical activities as well as school work. We are also considering the use of a food services grant to provide dinners for the program.
·      Several of the churches that have expressed interest in the program have indicated that they do not have a large congregation capable to provide volunteers for wrap-around services every day. However, they are opening the doors to their facility and partnering with volunteers from other churches or interested participants.
·      All students will have access to participate in wrap-around services. There will be no discrimination of any type allowed. Students who have demonstrated need for academic support will be given highest priority. Teachers and counselors will work together to make recommendations for services. Students can lose the opportunity to participate if inappropriate discipline becomes an issue. MCPS will provide transportation from school to the centers. Parents will be responsible to get students home from the program at the close of each session.

Ultimately the programs that are created to support students in this way will be determined by each partner church or civic group. These common elements are very promising and the impact on students will be enormous. One thing that is required of all support programs is that all volunteers will have to submit to and pass sanctioned background checks.

We are hopeful that partners will be available to support students from all four of our elementary schools to begin in the Fall. There is still time for those churches that are interested but have not yet made a commitment to make plans. Many thanks to those that are currently making plans. Again, this service can make a tremendous impact on many students in Mecklenburg County. This is how we get a great Return on Investment.

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