Sherman ACES program focuses on students in academic need

Even with less funding this year, Sherman ISD’s ACES program plans to provide the same after school academic enrichment activities for students in first through eighth grade as it has in its first three years.

Now in its fourth year, the ACES program, which stands for After school Centers on Education — Sherman, is funded through federal grants administered by the Texas Education Agency. This year that funding has been reduced by 25 percent and will be reduced by a further 25 percent next year.

“Regardless of that funding, we still have to serve the same minimum number of kids,” ACES program Director Nele Rogers said. “We’re having to make the same things happen with less dollars, so we are really looking for community support as well.”

As a stipulation of the federal funding, the district is required not to charge families for participation in the program.

ACES, which is presently accepting applications for the 2012-2013 school year, is designed to engage students after the completion of regular school hours everyday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Students also receive help with their homework, exposure to fine arts and access to special activities like dance, music, martial arts and computer classes.

“Our primary goal is to give extra help to the kids at Sherman ISD that need it,” Rogers said. “We have a focus on academics, but we also do a lot of enrichment. We do hands-on learning and we have lots of opportunities that kids don’t get to do during the school day.”

While enrollment in the program is limited, students in academic need are given priority. ACES staff use a set of assessments to determine which applicants are most in need of educational assistance, but also take siblings into consideration.

“Instead of just serving the one with the highest need, we try to take the whole family into consideration,” Rogers said. “At some point, we typically do get a waiting list at each of our sites.”

Once accepted, students in first through fifth grades from Crutchfield, Sory, Wakefield and Washington elementaries take part in the program at Crutchfield’s campus. Students in first through fifth grades at Fairview, Jefferson and Neblett take part in the program at Neblett, while students at Dillingham Intermediate School and Piner Middle meet on Piner’s campus. Kindergarten students are also sometimes accepted, but only on a case-by-case basis.

“We serve each campus through eighth grade in the district, but we provide transportation to and from the sites,” Rogers said. “Parents also have the option to pick up from the ACES site.”

Throughout the school year, the program usually serves around 500 children. The two elementary sites each serve over 200 kids and about 125 students take part in the program at the Piner campus. Student pick-up times at the end of each day between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. are strictly enforced.

“We don’t want kids having to wait there until 6:30 or 7 p.m. on a consistent basis,” Rogers said. “We want them to be able to spend some time with their families as well.”

In addition to proving academic assistance, the program also helps keep unsupervised children out of trouble.

“It’s a safe and encouraging place for kids to go everyday after school,” Rogers said. “I think that’s a very big plus in light of the fact that, especially as kids get older, the time between three and six can be a time where more risky behavior happens. If they’re safely engaged in our program then you know they’re not going to be involved in risky behavior.”