Umatilla students can learn as much outside of class as they do in, with the help of a grant the district just received to fund science and arts programs.
The district received a five-year grant from the Oregon Department of Education, and will receive $467,572 per year for the first three years. The final two years of the grant will be funded at 75 percent.
Grant money will go toward developing STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — programs.
Superintendent Heidi Sipe said the grant will allow the district to supplement existing programs, as well as add some new classes and services.
“We’ll get to add so many cool things, like Saturday classes and mental health,” she said.
The district has an active after-school program that about 50 percent of students attend, and offers classes that are driven by student interest and often taught by high schoolers.
The grant will allow for more classes, Sipe said, and will especially focus on expanding arts opportunities. Previously, the after-school program focused on “STEM” — science, technology, engineering and math — but Sipe said they are added to include more art components.
“We’re looking at dance, probably more drama offerings than we had before,” she said. “We’re really hoping we can expand the anime club.”
The grant will also fund expansion of the district’s mental health and adult education programs.
“It’ll be a lot of the same mental health services offered during the day,” Sipe said. “But the challenge was that families had to leave work, or kids would have to leave class to participate. This gives families the option of having the same services, after school and in the evening.”
The district will also expand the time and funding options for evening education programs. Family members can take GED, ESL and parenting classes. The district will now be an approved GED testing site, meaning fees will be absorbed by the district, and testing times will become more flexible.
This year, Sipe said 26 people attended the ESL class, and four are taking the GED class.
Umatilla has had some form of after-school program since 2003, originally funded with Title I money and limited to reading and math instruction. Sipe said the first grant from the Oregon Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center Title IV-B was received in 2005. A grant in 2013 allowed them to expand the program to include Friday after school, when they conduct many of their field trips.
“A lot of kids don’t get to travel and experience things outside our community,” Sipe said. “So that’s when we take them kayaking with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, to the planetarium, to Intel. They get to explore career opportunities.”
Sipe said initially, the district was nervous about applying for such a large grant, and thought about sticking to smaller grants.
“Ultimately, we decided if we wanted to provide the best quality program, we needed to go for big funding,” she said.