LAKE LUZERNE -- Students in the local school district have made significant progress in academics over the last eight years, despite a lack of resources.
But, until now, the time constraints of the school day have prevented the Hadley-Luzerne Central School District from taking the next step.
On Wednesday, school officials and members of the community gathered at the middle school library to announce details of a program that will provide academic opportunities to children after school, on weekends and over the summer. The district expects the extra school time to help more students graduate from high school.
The extended school day program is for middle school students, in grades three to eight.
The district is using an $850,000 grant that funds extended school day and violence prevention school programs. The grant is through the state Department of Education.
"We are so proud of this day," said Irwin Sussman, superintendent of schools, to an audience of students, parents, school officials and members of the media.
School officials say students need more time in the classroom for school work. But over the years, budget restraints and laws on the length of the school day have prevented the district from offering programs to keep students in the classroom longer.
"Students, in essence, need more time to learn," Sussman said.
For the first time last summer, the middle school did not have a summer success program, which was axed to save money. Middle school students who struggle can receive extra help, but there are no programs to challenge or enrich students who excel in class.
"We needed this," said Stephen Danna, the curriculum coordinator who anchored the grant-writing process, an effort that required help from various school officials.
District officials hope to use the grant to provide a safe, quiet place after school for students to finish their homework and receive additional help.
Students will be able to take part in a diverse range of enrichment activities through 5-week seminars that, for example, teach Internet use, plant life, and writing. In another seminar, students will use literature to create drawings for comic books.
The district will work with two local organizations to put on additional programs using the grant.
The Warren County chapter of Cornell Cooperative Extension will provide outdoor recreation activities. The Hadley-Luzerne Public Library will teach technology and use the school's planetarium for various activities.
In addition, the district will organize various family activities, such as trips for stargazing, hikes and museum visits.
The after-school programs will run from 2:35 to 4:35 p.m., Monday through Friday. It will include a snack time.
The grant will provide transportation for any student who needs it, pay for 50 laptops, and restore the summer success program.
The extended school day programs will require 12 part-time workers, including five teachers working 10 hours a week. The grant will pay for the positions.
While the middle school has 390 students, and all are encouraged to sign up, school officials expect enrollment to range from 85 to 100.
Danna said the grant will create programs that teach students to use technology.
"We want children to graduate from Hadley-Luzerne with the skills and knowledge essential for the 21st century," he said.
Danna said the program will start once the Department of Education provides the money. He said he does not know when that will be, but hopes it happens before the end of the school year.
More than 30 school districts won the grant, which will provide funding through 2013 with an option to renew for two additional years. Hadley-Luzerne is the only school district north of Schenectady to be chosen.
The state has $24.3 million set aside for the grant program, with 55 percent of the funds going to New York City. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers will get 15 percent, with 30 percent left for the rest of the state.
Hadley-Luzerne is targeting the middle school because students who succeed at those grade levels have a greater chance of graduating from high school.
"These middle school years are critical years for children," Danna said.
Anna Waterhouse, a seventh-grader who was among several students at Wednesday's press conference, said she is intrigued by a seminar called "Roving Reporters," which teaches students how to gather information and write news stories.
"I really think the reporter seminar looks interesting. I like to write," she said.
Hailey Harris, a fellow seventh-grader, said the extended school day program is a good idea.
"It's a chance for kids to get their homework done," she said.