Lawrence Co. Schools get million dollar grant, first in a series

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 29, 2001

MONTICELLO — The Lawrence County School District is among only12 Mississippi schools to receive a million dollar federal 21stCentury Learning Grant.

“We’re the only ones to receive this grant in this part of thestate,” said Superintendent John Bull.

The grant will be distributed over three years. Bull said thedistrict will receive the first installment of this year’s $379,810on June 1.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“This means we’ll be able to have the kind of after-schoolprograms that will benefit our children and help them improve whilein school,” Bull said.

The grant will address four key objectives in after-schoolprograms identified by the district.

“We set four objectives in our proposal: to establish anafter-school program that provides both academic andextracurricular activities for all students in grades K-8; expandand enhance the district’s Parent/Family Center; establish extendedlibrary and media services at our schools; and to provide limitedafter-school opportunities and services to students in grades9-12,” Bull said.

After-school programs are necessary, Bull said, to motivatestudents to study and participate in learning environments. Thelack of activities in the county for youth contributes to thesource of many school problems.

“Regardless of the many efforts of organizations, individualparents and citizens, many students in Lawrence County are at riskfor failure,” Bull said. “According to recent statistics, almostone fourth of the students in the county drop out before completinghigh school. Families exist on incomes well below the povertylevel, and drug usage and juvenile crime continue to threatenfamilies.”

Poverty is one of the prime elements that cause students tofail. According to the proposal, 61 percent of the county’sstudents qualify for free or reduced lunches. This is typical in astate that ranks 48th in the nation in a listing of children livingin poverty. The per capita personal income of county residents in$15,372, nearly $3,000 below the state average and $10,000 belowthe national average.

“It is undisputed that poverty negatively impacts the academicachievement of children,” Bull said. “Students who live in povertydo not have access to activities that students from homes withhigher incomes take for granted.”

Bull said he hopes the cooperation between the school districtand other organizations that support and cooperated with theproposal will help bridge that gap.

The lack of public facilities for the youth is anothercontributing factor, he said.

“Lawrence County students and citizens have few educationalresources outside the public school facilities,” Bull explained.”We have youth groups in the county, such as the Boys and GirlsClub, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and Pee Wee sports, but a verysmall percent of the students participate.”

In addition, the public library has two locations in the countyand Copiah-Lincoln Community College occasionally offers classesfor adults. No public transportation system for students to movearound the county is available.

Bull said he hopes that by bringing the school district and thecounty organizations closer together and opening the schoolfacilities after regular school hours and on Saturdays may helpalleviate this concern.

Next: The next article in the series will examine thegrant’s first objective, to establish an after school program whichprovides both academic and extracurricular activities for allstudents in grades K-8.