The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has partnered with the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance (SCAA) to provide up to $14.5 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to expand summer and after-school programs to address COVID-19 related learning loss in disadvantaged communities.

The SCDE will provide up to $12 million to SCAA for the expansion of summer and after-school programs in districts and community organizations. Funding for the first year of the partnership is expected to serve 45 organizations and more than 4,000 students. Additionally, $1 million will be provided to support parent programs provided by the Columbia Urban League, and $1.5 million to support after-school programs provided by Wings for Kids.

The expansion of summer and afterschool programs is part of the SCDE’s broader efforts to support student academic recovery and districts as they work to aid students and their families adversely impacted by the pandemic.

“Local partnerships that leverage new and existing relationships between schools, families, and community organizations can provide the targeted support that students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic need to accelerate their learning,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “By working with the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance, we can grow proven programs and create new ones that will serve our students and their families now and into the future. We are excited about the opportunities this funding will create and the year-round learning that will result from this investment.”

Through its partnership with the SCDE, SCAA will offer after-school grant opportunities to school districts and community organizations to establish or expand after-school programs. Districts and organizations selected through the grants process will receive professional development and a tiered system of support to minimize learning loss. Additionally, data collected by SCAA through the data management system will be provided to the district for evaluation and sustainability.

“There is no doubt the pandemic has impacted student learning and their families, but assisting students who have been affected the most requires extensive support from local and state partnerships,” said Zelda Waymer, President, and CEO of the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance. “This partnership with the South Carolina Department of Education, coupled with the 1400 after-school community-based, faith-based, and other local non-profit programs in underserved areas of the state, is creating an ecosystem of support to help accelerate learning and expand hands-on opportunities for students to grow academically”

As a part of the SCDE’s commitment to support parent programs, the Columbia Urban League will receive $1 million to implement the Equity and Excellence in Education program statewide. The program aims to significantly close the achievement gap by identifying and providing academic-related resources and support to parents and caregivers of students of color and/or economically disadvantaged students. To do this, the Columbia Urban League will identify students in Title One schools throughout the state. Parents and/or caregivers will be provided video and written tutorials focused on key K-12 South Carolina standards. The information will be made available free of charge and available upon request. The Columbia Urban League will also host regional conferences based on feedback from parents, addressing their concerns and needs.

“The South Carolina Department of Education’s support for after-school programs is noteworthy because this support is vital in reducing and closing the historical achievement gap along with the COVID-related learning loss gap,” said JT McLawhorn, CEO of the Columbia Urban League. “These funds are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the academic performance of many disadvantaged and underserved children, which is essential in preparing them for livable income career opportunities and breaking the cycle of poverty for many.”

Wings for Kids, a nonprofit after-school program that provides disadvantaged youth with access to high-quality social and emotional learning experiences, has been allocated $1.5 million of the ESSER relief funds to manage and implement a pilot project for five K–5 programs in Title One elementary schools serving 500 students in the most impoverished neighborhoods in South Carolina.

“We know that in order for students to learn, they must feel supported, accepted, and valued,” said Bridget Laird, CEO of Wings for Kids. “Intentionally teaching life skills prioritizes a student’s well-being and provides lessons and practice in taking on challenges, learning from effort, building healthy relationships, and problem-solving. Wings for Kids is honored to bring our 25 years of experience to kids and schools across the state of South Carolina with the support of the SCDE. We’re excited to team up with families, classrooms, and schools to ensure that students see and feel how our evidence-based, engaging after-school program positively impacts schools now and leaders for tomorrow.”

The partnership between the SCDE and the SCAA will run through September 2024.

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