Blessings of Project STAR continue through summer |

Blessings of Project STAR continue through summer

Even after the last school bell rings in the Roaring Fork School District, students can be found in the classrooms, gyms, cafeterias or outdoors learning a new magic trick, cooking bread, dancing a few hip-hop moves or learning to cross country ski. Visit another day and students will be practicing their fractions in a small group or getting one-on-one reading attention from a retired teacher.

Whether engaging students in interesting enrichment classes or focused academic help, the unique Project STAR program has touched some 1,400 students each year in the RFSD since it started in summer 2001.

“It’s probably one of the best academically oriented after-school programs in the nation funded through 21st Century Community Learning Center funds,” said Project STAR Director Melissa Matherly. “It’s wonderful for parents to have a place for kids to go that offers programs geared to their educational needs. It’s an opportunity that most school districts don’t have.”

Funded through almost $4 million in competitive, non-renewable federal grants, the successful three-year Project STAR program could come to a close after summer 2004. The program is supervised by 11 full-time coordinators with help from many licensed teachers, local organizations and community volunteers. Matherly said some 28 percent of district students in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt take advantage of at least one STAR class each year.

“We were fortunate to have this added benefit for the kids for the time we were able to have it,” Superintendent Fred Wall said. “The opportunities that we’ve had to focus on putting extra time in literacy and in mathematics for the students in STAR is a great foundation for them as they go through school.”

The district’s STAR statistician Bob Shettel said test score comparisons from 2002 to 2003 show STAR students have “sky rocketed” in reading. For example, students who attended STAR consistently improved their CSAP test scores more than the rest of the district students, including 38 percent higher than their peers in reading and 14 percent more in math.

“Data indicate that when students attend on a regular basis, it does make a dramatic difference,” Matherly said.

STAR academic assistance is available for students who currently score below their grade level in reading or math. Any student kindergarten through high school can pay moderate fees for interest-based enrichment courses from Spanish language to book clubs, from hands-on science exploration to arts and crafts classes.

The downturn in the economy has made local and state funds less available to schools for after-school programming, Wall said, but district officials hope to try to retain the best that STAR, or Students Together Achieving Results, has to offer.

“We’ve been appreciative in being able to participate in this federal grant for three years,” Wall said. “As the grant winds down, we are looking at whatever we can do to save as much of this program as possible through grants and cooperative efforts with the community.”

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