Southern Door Elementary Wins Major Enrichment Learning Grant

Southern Door Elementary School recently learned it will receive a highly competitive 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

“This is going to be a great addition for our students and families,” said elementary Principal Cory Vandertie. “There’s so much excitement right now and lots of positive buzz in our community.”

Before returning to his alma mater (Class of 1993) as elementary principal two years ago, Vandertie spent three years overseeing 13 community-center learning sites in the Green Bay School District.

“So I’m very familiar with the program and what the outcomes are intended to be,” he said. “The ultimate goal of the 21st Century Community Learning Center is obviously to improve student enrichment, but also to be able to provide additional enrichment opportunities that students wouldn’t normally receive living in a more rural community.”

Those opportunities, he said, involve teaming up with community partners such as the YMCA, UW-Extension, Door County Partnership for Children and Families, and Big Brothers Big Sisters to bring programming right to the school.

“The program is not meant to be more of the same,” Vandertie said. “It’s supposed to be extended learning opportunities. We will be able to offer that right on-site. It will free up parents from having to drive them to other locations. We plan to offer arts and music programs, whether it’s bringing in guests to teach dance classes. We’re looking at possibly starting a drumming club. Our minds are just going. We have a lot of proposals within the initial grant, and now it’s really the nitty-gritty of finalizing that for the coming school year.”

The grant provides $115,000 for each of the next five years, beginning in the fall of the 2019-20 school year.

“The majority of it is going to staffing because we will have a site coordinator who will be in charge of all after-school programming and staff,” Vandertie said. “We’ll have a lot of line staff – staff working directly with the students. Our goal is to serve approximately 60 students per day, Monday through Friday.”

After-school programming will include tutoring for students who need it, but more importantly, Vandertie said, is providing “enrichment opportunities for students who have the skills and want to dig deeper and showcase their learning in a more project-based atmosphere.”

Door County Partnership for Children and Families will offer programming for parents, including parenting skills, supporting social and emotional learning needs of children, and looking at how to deal with behavioral challenges parents might face at home. “Those are some key starting points,” Vandertie said, adding that in Green Bay, they also provided financial literacy and meal planning at home.

“I just think the sky’s the limit,” he said. “It’s really exciting. We are fortunate, blessed, lucky and excited to be able to offer this.”

If you’re interested in serving as a volunteer for the after-school program or would like to join the growing list of community partners, contact Vandertie at 920.825.7311 or email [email protected].

Southern Door also learned that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has awarded the district a $25,000 grant to create a fabrication laboratory facility for the middle school.

WEDC’s Fab Labs Grant Program is designed to support hands-on learning in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) by assisting public school districts with equipment purchases such as 3D printers, laser engravers, computer numerical-control routers and plasma cutters for instructional and educational purposes.

“This grant will enable us to provide fab lab equipment for the middle school, which is exciting for our students and staff,” said Southern Door Superintendent Patti Vickman. “More than two-thirds of our high school students as well as more than 30 community residents have now taken coursework in our high school fab lab, so we know that the interest in this type of learning experience is high.”

Finally, Jessica Meacham, Southern Door’s Elementary STEAM teacher, received a check for $4,875.85 fromWally Purdun, manager of CenturyLink’s Regional Operations, as the recipient of the CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation grant.

“This grant will enable the purchase of iPads to be used as design assistants to help students build capacity as they ask, imagine, plan and design their projects,” Meacham said. “The iPads will help them transition from being consumers (passive learners) to creators (active learners).”

Southern Door implemented a STEAM class for 60 minutes a week for each K-5 classroom as a means to develop the four Cs: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity.