This school year, elementary and middle school students in the Connellsville Area School District will have an opportunity to receive tutoring, homework help and STEM education at an after school program thanks to a partnership between the district and the Private Industry Council.

PIC received a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the state Department of Education to institute the after school program at Connellsville this fall.

In all, more than $22 million in funds were granted to education institutions, faith-based partners, and community partners across the commonwealth. PIC received $365,000 to set up programs in the Connellsville Area and Southmoreland school districts. PIC has operated similar programs in the Ligonier Valley and Monessen school districts.

John Malone, a youth program supervisor with PIC, explained how the program will work to school board members on Monday.

All four elementary schools and the middle school in Connellsville Area will offering tutoring, homework help, and STEM education after school.

“It will be an extension of what they are learning at school,” said Malone.

He said the program takes a “hands-on” approach to learning. There will be enrichment opportunities including STEM partnerships with the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and urban art with Rivers of Steel.

STEM education was selected as the program emphasis due to the career opportunities that curriculum offers students.

Third through fifth graders in elementary and sixth through eighth graders in middle school are eligible for the program.

The grant requires the program be held for 36 consecutive weeks, so Malone said the Connellsville after school program is slated to begin on Sept. 9 and run through May 22, 2020. It will be held for three hours after school, Monday through Thursday for 12 hours per week.

While Malone hopes to have a lot of students who give 100% participation, he understands after school activities may make it difficult for some. He said organizers will try to be flexible with students and parents who may only be able to attend one or two days a week.

The program is looking to enroll 35 students per location.

PIC provides transportation for students participating, but parents may also make arrangements to pick up children.

The program features instructors from the school district to give students a continuity of learning. Each class will have a head teacher who will be paid by PIC a rate of $25 per hour and an assistant teacher at $15 per hour. These teachers will be hired by PIC.

Malone said the program aims to improve grades and PSSA scores and encourages school attendance.

Malone said he is excited to get to partner with Connellsville Area, noting he graduated from the district and resides within its borders.

“This is a really great place,” said Malone, who said Superintendent Joseph Bradley and other officials have been great to collaborate with already.

Malone said the help from Bradley and school principals to help coordinate scheduling not only for students, but also instructors will be key.

“That’s our number one goal,” said Malone.

Acceptance of the grant and the creation of the after school program was expected to be approved by the school board Wednesday at its regular meeting.

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