Jan. 25—ELKHART — Elkhart Community Schools became one of 42 agencies in the country awarded a U.S. Department of Education Full-Service Community Grant last week.
The five-year grant will award the district just over $1.9 million per year, for a five-year total of more than $9.5 million, a news release stated. The grant will serve six ECS schools: Mary Beck Elementary, Mary Daly Elementary, Monger Elementary, Beardsley Elementary, Roosevelt STEAM Academy and Pierre Moran Middle School, as well as two Concord Community Schools schools: South Side Elementary and West Side Elementary.
Elkhart Schools Superintendent Steve Thalheimer shared that the grant encompasses everything that is meant by the term community.
"We are very honored to be selected in what was a very competitive grant opportunity," Thalheimer said. "We already have great connections with community partners and agencies, and this grant will allow us to work with them in a more coordinated way with dedicated people and resource dollars to have the biggest impact. Another aspect of this grant that is wonderful is that an Elkhart Memorial High School graduate helped our team write this grant and will serve as the outside evaluator of the grant's progress. It is so great to see an alumnus give back to both the district and the community through this grant."
Elkhart Community Schools is one of three agencies in the state of Indiana to receive the award, along with Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. and Marian University.
The Full-Service Community Grant provides funding for schools to enhance their normal school day by offering additional afterschool programs, encouraging family outreach and assistance in areas of need like financial literacy and nutrition, promoting a strong school-home relationship, and establishing easier transitions between grade levels and schools. The grant also provides funding for a site coordinator at each location who will focus on achieving the goals of the grant.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, community schools meet the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve by leveraging local nonprofit, private sector, and agency partnerships to bring services into school buildings. This includes services such as high-quality tutoring, health, mental health and nutrition services, as well as high-quality early learning programs, among others, for students and the community, the release added.
"Community Schools are an essential component of accelerating our students' learning and supporting their social, emotional, and mental health, and deepening community partnerships," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "At the height of the pandemic, community schools connected students and families with vital nutrition assistance, mental, physical, and other health services, and expanded learning opportunities. This work continues today because we know that students learn best when there is a comprehensive and holistic approach to meeting their needs."
This year's grant competition received the largest number of applications in the history of the program, according to the U.S. Department of Education.