Grant could strengthen quality of childhood education

Natalie De La Garza, Special to The County
9 years ago

    LIMESTONE, Maine — A Title I grant could be just what the Limestone Community School needs to improve its early childhood education, but board members are worried that the federal funding might come with stringent requirements that could exceed staff resources.

Assistant Superintendent Lois Brewer and Limestone Community School Principal Travis Barnes apprised the RSU 39 School Board of the grant during the Sept. 17 school board meeting at the Limestone Community School.
“It’s a substantial grant coming to Maine and they are selecting, for the award, one school in each county in the state of Maine,” Brewer explained.
The opportunity for the grant came about through the RSU’s close working relationship with the Maine Department of Education; the Limestone Community School is currently a targeted assistance Title I school and, because of their priority status, they are required to become a school-wide Title I school. One of the things the school is looking to do is close the achievement gap in kindergarten through third grade, and school administrators are currently working with officials with the Maine Department of Education to complete their approvable application to become a school-wide Title I school.
Though the amount of the grant remains unknown to RSU administrators, they anticipate it would be a substantial amount of funding that could help the school obtain its Title I goals. Brewer explained that the grant would facilitate a partnership with the agency ACAP and its Headstart program.
“This grant is focused on getting in there in an early age, and it would demand a lot of data analysis, and perhaps even enough money to fund a data coach, to really help the school,” Brewer told the board. She expressed that while the program does seem like a good fit, administration is cautiously optimistic.
“We have a great many initiatives on our plate for the school and the district, so we need to be very aware of what the demands of this grant would be before we sign on the dotted line,” Brewer explained, expressing that’s why administrators wished to obtain the board’s permission to move forward with investigation of the grant and meetings with ACAP officials.
School board member Kent Forbes expressed his concerns, asking Brewer “If we take this money, are we agreeing to do something that later we’re going to have to fund?”
Brewer explained that there is a sustainability piece to the grant that would need to be looked at.
Explaining his trepidation, Forbes said that accepting Title I data and do everything and sometimes, it almost gets more tedious than the money is worth,” Forbes said. “If this is a big chunk of change and it’s worth it, it’s worth it … but if down the road it’s going to be an impediment …”
Brewer agreed with Forbes’ concerns and assured him that administrators have been discussing such issues.
“But we’ve also had the conversation that this is a school with some dire needs, and if this is something that could be a game-changer for students of this school, then we really would be remiss in not looking into it,” she added. “Even if we have those fears and considerations, we don’t want that to get in the way of doing what’s right for the kids in Limestone either,” Brewer said.
The board agreed to move forward to the informational assessment of the grant opportunity, and authorized Superintendent Susan White to make a decision as to whether the grant’s benefits outweighed potential adverse complications.
The next meeting of the RSU 39 School Board is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Caribou Middle School.