GLOCESTER – The Harmony and Chepachet libraries are soon likely to see a major funding windfall as part of Gov. Dan McKee’s new statewide initiative to improve learning: Learn365RI.
At the recent Town Council meeting, members unanimously approved signing the Municipal Compact, along with 31 other cities and towns, making them eligible for significant grants. The initiative is designed to shift learning from the traditional 180 school days to 365 days of learning by supporting partnerships between municipalities, local education agencies and community-based organizations to expand after school learning experiences.
The only catch, explained Town Clerk Jean Fecteau, is that the opportunities have to be available for everyone in the town. That eliminated the Senior Center, among other sites, leaving only local libraries as possibilities. Many other towns and cities used Boys and Girls Clubs as venues, which Glocester does not have.
“Each town building we tried to make fit was out because of one thing or another,” said Fecteau. “The only one was the library.”
The announcement from the governor’s office outlined potential ways to be eligible for funds, including investing in existing or new community learning programs, centers, and/or libraries that will help advance the goal of improving educational outcomes, as well as creating programs to advance learning in ways unique to the community.
The Advancing Learning Beyond the 180-Day School Year grant program is part of the governor’s Learn365RI initiative, with the long-term goal of improving student learning outcomes and increasing three key metrics:
· Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System mathematics and English Language Arts scores
· School attendance rates
· Free Application for Federal Student Aid completion rates
“If we are going to catch up with our neighboring states and recover from the impact of the pandemic, we know there needs to be additional learning time outside of the school day,” said McKee in his press release. “Out-of-school learning time can be fun, engaging, and inspiring while also supporting academic skill development. These dollars will assist municipalities in creating and expanding out-of-school learning opportunities for all students while helping us close learning gaps and increase student achievement.”
The municipal awards range from $50,000 to $400,000 to be used over a 15 month period. The total amount of grant money available statewide is $4 million.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for the libraries because all of our capital projects have been done through grants,” said librarian Gayle Wolstenholme. “This can improve our two buildings, and bring more learning opportunities and help opportunities.”
Wolstenholme explained that the library already has a number of programs in place to help residents, from providing resources, to information on job opportunities and health programs. In the past the library has partnered with Bryant University, which provided tutors for students in various disciplines.
Fecteau added that the grants can be applied to both new and existing programs, according to the description provided by the governor’s office.
“My feeling is that this is a good thing,” said Councilor Walter Steere. “It gives the libraries an opportunity to get some grant help.”