SALYERSVILLE – In a time when school news often surrounds violent threats and extreme budget cuts, Magoffin County schools received some good news recently.
Magoffin County Superintendent Scott Helton told the Independent that they have teamed up with Berea College to receive the GEAR UP grant, which over the next seven years will add almost $800,000 to the budget to go toward preparing middle school and high school students for college.
Last year Berea College contacted Helton to see if they wanted to be a part of the application for the grant, which also included Wolfe, Menifee, Floyd and Pike County schools.
The grant runs for seven years, at $65,075 per year, plus covers the cost of employing one teacher (beginning salary, plus fringe benefits, estimated at $48,000 per year).
The money will focus on math and language arts, giving the school system the leeway to purchase equipment, materials and technology, as well as cover costs of field trips for college visits, guest speakers and professional development for teachers.
This fall the program will start with the sixth grade class at Herald Whitaker Middle School, then the next year will follow that same class (now seventh graders) and the new sixth grade class. Helton explained that it will continue to follow those students into the high school, eventually transitioning by the last couple of years to focusing on the high school students.
“As far as the budget, this is a godsend,” Helton said. “This pays for PD and materials, field trips, transportation. This gives us the opportunity to help those kids.”
Currently, the districts involved in the grant are all working together to plan for the best ways to spend the money, with financial training meeting to be held on March 9.
Helton explained that they will have to create a budget for the funds and send that to Berea College for approval. The money will be distributed by the college in matching funds, reimbursing the school district for the costs incurred. He said that the amount of the grant is determined by the number of students the school district has.
During the summer, Berea College will help the school district with the interview process to find a teacher for the program.
While Magoffin has participated in the GEAR UP program in the past, Helton said one of the new objectives is to make the parents more aware of things going on with the program to increase involvement.
“We want to let everyone know these opportunities are out there,” Helton said. “This program will help the students, not just with math and language arts, but also with letting them know about financial aid and scholarships.”
With the district seeing thousands of dollars cut out of the current year’s budget after the school year started, Helton said he couldn’t be happier.
“There’s been cuts all over, and then there’s this money we can spend on our children,” Helton said. This will give middle school and high school students an opportunity to see what college campuses look like they may not have been able to visit, and give us the opportunity to purchase scientific calculators and train the students on how to use them. This will help us take down the barriers and reduce the apprehension of kinds thinking they can’t go to college and give us an avenue to help them find a way to go if it’s their desire.”
The GEAR UP program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federal grant developed by the U.S. Department of Education to provide early intervention support services and scholarships to a cohort of students in low-income middle and high schools.