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$2M grant for Marble Falls ISD’s at-risk students could grow

Marble Falls ISD board meeting 7-17-23

Marble Falls ISD Executive Director of Special Services Dr. Shana Bunch-Fancher explained the benefits of a recent $2 million grant awarded to the district during the Board of Trustees' special meeting on July 17. Screen-captured image

The Marble Falls school district was awarded a roughly $2 million grant for the 2023-24 school year to establish community learning centers on each campus for educational support and after-school programs for at-risk students. By reapplying each year for the next five years, the district could receive a total of $9.5 million, Superintendent Dr. Jeff Gasaway said.

“We will have to do some paperwork, but we feel confident based on the initial receiving of the grant that we will be eligible each year,” he said.

The Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Learning Centers grant will provide robust after-school care along with other programs designed to bolster year-round education for at-risk students, which includes those facing homelessness, those who are economically disadvantaged, or those in English as a Second Language classes, among other criteria.

Marble Falls Independent School District was one of about 40 districts in the state to receive the highly competitive federal grant.

“This is exciting news in my mind,” Gasaway said. “If it goes well, this will help us academically and behaviorally.” 

Executive Director of Special Services Dr. Shana Bunch-Fancher explained the grant to the MFISD Board of Trustees during a special meeting on Monday, July 17.

“In addition to providing instruction at all six campuses until 6 o’clock every day, it will fund academic enrichment activities, targeted tutoring, snacks after school, family engagement activities, and six weeks of summer learning,” she said.

With the grant, MFISD will ensure the safety of participating students by providing after-school programs on each campus.

“We need a safe place for these kids to be, and we need to give parents some peace of mind,” Bunch-Fancher said, adding that many local children are unable to attend after-school care due to a lack of options.

“When we look at that lack of appropriate after-school care, we know that for every child that is in an after-school care program, there’s three waiting for that after-school care,” she said.

Statistics prove the safety concerns caused by a lack of after-school resources, Bunch-Fancher said.

“The biggest time for sexual offenses and physical offenses is between 3 and 6 o’clock,” she said. “That’s when parents are at work and when kids are at home.”

Improving safety isn’t the only mission for the district’s after-school programming.

“At the same time, we need to provide them with the extra enrichment that they would not otherwise receive,” Bunch-Fancher continued.

District officials hope to boost learning in core subjects and increase attendance through the programs. 

“The grant goals are to improve academic performance during the school day for reading and math and also to improve school day attendance,” Bunch-Fancher said.

Transportation will be offered to program participants.

“It’s a benefit because we have some students that don’t participate in extracurricular activities because they don’t have a way to get transportation home,” Bunch-Fauncher said. 

The district also plans to host a free, six-week summer program to further education and decrease learning losses over the summer break.

“I think it’s going to be amazing for our at-risk students and our at-risk population,” Bunch-Fancher said.

Over 500 at-risk students in MFISD could benefit from the programs.