(Source: School District of Lancaster)

As the School District of Lancaster continues to build back from the pandemic year of 2020-21, it is ramping up its recruitment of community partners to assist with after-school programs.

For years, city community organizations such as The Mix at Arbor Place have partnered with SDL on the district's "Extended Day" program, offering tutoring, enrichment activities and the like. For 2021-22, SDL wants to expand Extended Day, both by increasing student enrollment with existing providers and by bringing on new ones.

"We've reached out to lots of different community partners ... a whole spectrum," said Erin Conahan, SDL's coordinator of school, family, & community partnerships.

That includes nonprofits and for-profits alike, she said. Among other things, SDL is making a concerted push to see which organizations outside Lancaster city might be interested.

The district can do so in large part thanks to a windfall, in the form of millions of dollars in federal Covid-19 relief funding. The additional money means SDL can support Extended Day partners in ways it couldn't before, such as paying for staff time and transportation.

"We can cover those costs," Conahan said. Arrangements are negotiated and formalized by contract, with agreements reviewed and approved by SDL's school board.

Covid-19 relief at SDL

The School District of Lancaster has received nearly $70 million in "Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief," or ESSER, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The funding has multiple phases with multiple timelines, including "specific items for support of academic recovery," said Erin Conahan, SDL's coordinator of school, family, & community partnerships.

Though SDL hasn't allocated all of it to specific purposes yet, the 2021-22 budget includes appropriations of nearly $22 million for Covid-19 recovery. That includes Extended Day and other programs to advance students' academic and emotional wellbeing, as well as infrastructure investments such as information technology and school ventilation upgrades.

Last year, more than 1,200 students participated in Extended Day sessions, coordinator Kathi Loferski said. Because of the pandemic, and the difficulty many students were having adapting to virtual and hybrid learning, the 2020-21 version of the program focused intensively on tutoring, she said.

That was a one-time expedient, however. Going forward, the intent is to offer a broad spectrum of enrichment options, with activities available every day, Monday through Friday, while school is in session.

Students welcome the opportunity to engage with mentors through Extended Day, Loferski said: "They learn so much."

Willonda McCloud (Source: SoWe)

Bright Side Opportunities Center has applied to offer its STEM Leadership Academy for middle-school students under the auspices of Extended Day, President and CEO Willonda McCloud said.

The classes started two years ago as STEM Girls Leadership Academy, intended to inspire more girls to pursue academic and career tracks in science and math. This year, a version for boys is being added.

The STEM academy will run from October to May and focus on coding and robotics along with leadership skills. Also included: Cooking 101, a life skill often lost in an age of microwaves and convenience food.

Bright Side hopes to enroll 40 children, or more than double the 18 girls who participated in the first class in 2019.

Loferski strongly urged organizations interested in the Extended Day program to reach out.
"They will certainly make an impact with students," she said.

For more information

To learn more about the School District of Lancaster's Extended Day program and how local organizations can participate, email Coordinator Kathi Loferski at [email protected].

Tim Stuhldreher