West Feliciana receives literacy grant

The state Department of Education announced this week that the West Feliciana Parish school system is among nine school districts and two charter school organizations receiving federal competitive grants this year to improve literacy.

Educators call the federal awards “circle grants,” after the acronym for the program’s formal name, Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy.

The SRCL grants are intended to improve literacy of children, preschool through 12th grade.

Human Resources Supervisor Beverly Grant, who also writes grant applications for the district, said the money will provide additional focused intervention in all schools, including the high school for the first time, for students who have reading problems.

The grant requires a 25 percent match from the parish, but some money the district already is spending on literacy efforts from its general fund can be counted as part of the local contribution, Finance Director Ruthie Davis said.

School Superintendent Hollis G. Milton said the application was developed with input from the parish’s teachers and principals.

“We feel like it’s going to make a significant impact on the literacy outcomes of all students,” Milton said.

West Feliciana will get $253,940 for the first three months of the grant year and an additional, but as yet unspecified, allocation in October.

Under the terms of the grant, the School Board is required to hire four “literacy integration specialists,” one at each school, to integrate literacy improvement strategies in all curriculum subject areas.

The grant also requires West Feliciana to extend literacy programs into the community by sending literacy activities into the homes of children 4 years old and younger. The parish already provides services to members of that age group and their parents through its Family Services Center.

West Feliciana’s school system also operates the Head Start program for eligible preschool children.

Grant said other plans include extra instruction after school and during the summer for students with reading problems.

The neighboring East Feliciana Parish school system received a SRCL grant in 2012, and Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said the parish finished a summer literacy camp on Friday that was funded by the grant.

About 120 students attended the camp, he said.

The initial grant was for East Feliciana’s high school, middle school and Jackson Elementary. In the coming school year, Clinton Elementary will be added, Lewis said.

Lewis said he attributes growth in student performance at Jackson Elementary, as evidenced by spring test scores, in part to the SRCL grant.