New afterschool grant secured by Seguin ISD

Monday, July 12, 2021

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Cindy Aguirre-Herrera

(Seguin) – The Seguin ISD has landed a multi-million-dollar boost in its efforts to ensure the success of all students across the district. The district is the recipient of the Texas Afterschool Centers on Education program grant to the tune of $1.7 million a year annually over five years. During the 2021- 2022 school year, Seguin ISD plans to establish Texas ACE programs at the district’s seven elementary campuses and both middle schools.

Seguin ISD Superintendent says he believes the Texas ACE program is just another game changer aimed at improving the success of not only students but also their families.

“The purpose of this grant is to not only serve students but also serve to their families and what makes this significant beyond the number of dollars that are going to come into the system is that it is going to provide an opportunity for some of our most at risk students and their families to have a space where they can participate in not only in enrichment learning opportunities but also opportunities for adults in those families to also engage in learning and so that’s what really makes this grant a really big deal not only for the school district but also the community,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez says the benefits of the ACE program are limitless for Seguin ISD families and looks forward to implementing a sea of possibilities beginning this school year. 

“Some of the ways that it can benefit are some literacy programs for adults, GED programs for adults, looking at some of our parents, our community members who do not speak English providing them opportunities to learn English through this program while also providing opportunities for students to stay at school in a safe place until up to 6:30 p.m. where students can participate in a variety of programs that are of interest to them as well providing extended school days to students who need that additional time for learning,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez says the afterschool program, more importantly, will help overcome learning gaps experienced during the 2020-2021 school year.

“The timing is just right as we are planning for addressing COVID slide and to have these additional resources on top of the federal funding is going to allow us to really provide laser focus support to students so that we can ensure they get back on target and on grade level so they are prepared for the following grade level but also prepared for STAAR next spring,” said Gutierrez. “Up until 6:30 p.m. is not going to be fully students continuing to learn but carving out a portion of that time for students to engage in additional learning especially in response to COVID as we work through COVID recovery -- one of the ways that we want our students to recover is to address that unfinished learning and so this is going to provide us the opportunity to be able to do that.”

Thanks to this funding, the district is planning to target anywhere from 700- 800 students for this program.

“The real purpose of this program is really to address four things. One, to help address reading and mathematics, to get the school district to achieve higher test scores when it comes to STAAR, to address issues with discipline – to get into a place where we are seeing fewer discipline problems, fewer discipline referrals to the principal’s office, to our alternative program, to also address attendance issues which historically have been an issue and a concern for the Seguin ISD. As we work through this over the next five years and really look at data and compare students who are in this program to students who are not to look at improved attendance rates and then finally, looking at increasing the likelihood of grade level promotion. So, not just looking at test scores as it relates to STAAR but really looking at helping our students improve with their overall grades across all subject areas,” said Gutierrez.

While the Seguin ISD celebrates this multimillion-dollar grant, Gutierrez says this isn’t the first time that the district has applied for the funding. It has been about three years since the district first failed short of being selected.

“I really feel like we were in a better place to be awarded this grant just because of everything that we have done over the past four years specifically all of those initiatives and programs that we have been able to put into place as a result of our strategic plan. I think that made us much more competitive with this round and we were able to secure this grant because of the innovative programs and initiatives that we have in place across the district,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez says the ACE program is more than just about funding, he says it’s a program that has proven successful in other districts.

“That’s why you see districts being awarded these dollars time and time again. It’s been over two decades that this has been in place, and you see some districts that have been a part of it since the very beginning because of the success that they are seeing in those areas that I just outlined. So, we are feeling really confident that we are going to be able to see tremendous progress and growth as a result of having this level of support in all of our schools. Of course, except the high school and MLBC and so we are looking forward to the impact that this going to have in addition to everything that we have in place,” said Gutierrez.

According to the Texas Education Agency, results from statewide program evaluations of Texas ACE have shown that participants, when compared with non-participants, experience higher test scores in reading/English language arts and mathematics while in grades nine through 12; fewer disciplinary incidents while in grades six through 12; fewer school day absences while in grades four through 12; and an increased likelihood of grade promotion overall.

Gutierrez says it’s also important to note that the program will not replace current afterschool programs being provided at local elementary schools.

“I think another question that is going to come of this is okay, how does this impact the partnership that Seguin ISD has with the city through the JAMM Program, which many of our students and their families take advantage of which is the afterschool programming for students – it is actually going to strengthen that and we plan to continue with that partnership because that specific program is open and it doesn’t target a specific group of kids. So, we will continue to see JAMM play a significant role in afterschool programming in the Seguin ISD schools but what we hope to do is to be able to provide additional opportunities to those students who are participating in JAAM so that they have an opportunity to engage in some of the enrichment programs that we are going to be providing to our schools at the end of the school day,” said Gutierrez.

The next step for the district is to now hire those who will help oversee the federally funded program. He says positions include site coordinators for each of the participating campuses, a district director, family coordinator plus a secretary to help support these districtwide positions.

“The nine Texas ACE sites will be supported by on-site coordinators who will work directly with teachers, administrators and parents. A grant director and family engagement coordinator will oversee the program throughout the grant period. The Seguin ISD ACE programs will provide high quality supplemental enrichment activities aligned with our regular academic program with a focus on creative, hands-on, and exploratory learning,” said Gutierrez.

School district officials say community partners for the Texas ACE grant will also include Texas Lutheran University and the city of Seguin.

View article on SeguinToday.com

Category: news, Seguin ISD

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