Saranac Lake schools snag grant for new programs

SARANAC LAKE — Erika Bezio said she “screamed with delight” when she learned the Saranac Lake Central School District was awarded a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant in April. Now, she’s getting ready to start offering the program’s before and after school, summer and weekend programming to students and families starting on July 1.

Bezio is SLCSD’s Community School liaison. She described this grant as a “cousin” to the Community Schools program, which matches students and families in the district with assistance to work through poverty, health issues or homelessness.

Bezio said the center this grant will create should aid the school’s efforts to make up for learning loss during the pandemic. The money is to be used for “enrichment and expanded academic opportunities.”

Bezio described it as a “gift to kids.”

She said the grant allows the district to partner with the YMCA from Malone and community businesses to offer art classes, opportunities to work on STEAM-related projects, lifeguard training, babysitting classes, joining Pendragon plays, going blueberry picking, bowling or on a canoe trip, all for free.

These events will be open to all students, and some for their parents, too.

The only catch is that students have to commit to participating in 15 hours of programming.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Bezio said. Of course, “except here at the school we do have free lunch.”

Bezio said a registration form for the center’s events should be sent out soon.

The federal learning center grant SLCSD got through the state Education Department is for $756,000 per year for five years.

Bezio said she’s gathering the Community School’s agency organization partners she already works with and figuring out how to work with them in a new way. She recently got hooked up with local businesses through Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce while planning the district’s upcoming Community Resource Day event on May 12.

The AuSable Valley Central School District got this grant, too, so Bezio hopes they can share information and resources.


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