ETX school districts start a new after-school program - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

ETX school districts start a new after-school program

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WINONA, TX (KLTV) -

Several East Texas school districts are trying out a new after-school program called University Academy.

Winona ISD kindergarten through eighth grade students are being offered the Texas Afterschool Centers on Education, or ACE program, through a grant provided by the Texas Education Agency.

The program will allow the district to provide several hours of extra time aimed at hands-on learning.

In order to get the grant that funds the program, Winona ISD school buses are leaving later this year.

"Instead of running at 3:15 p.m., we've pushed the bus back to 4:15 p.m. and that way we can make our numbers for the grant and make sure that we meet those qualifications," says Denise Shetter, superintendent for Winona ISD.

Class at Winona ISD is over at 3:15. Parents can then pick up their children, but anyone who rides a bus doesn't get to leave until an hour later. Some parents say keeping some students longer just because they ride the bus is not fair.

"If we can't pick them up then we have no say so we can't do anything about it because they control the buses, so  we're left out of the scenario," says a concerned Winona ISD parent.

The district says that hour is homework time.

One parent says this week his student didn't get home until just after 5 o'clock, still had homework, and hadn't eaten since 11 a.m.

The school district says bus routes are still changing and the extra hour of time with teachers should help students finish their homework before heading home.

Monday through Thursday, after 4:15, the district is going to start offering a series of elective classes to students in kindergarten through eighth grade as part of the school's University Academy program. 

"The target is to really be able to take knowledge that we're trying to teach them to begin with in a real life situation, and have some fun while we're at it," Shetter says.

Melisa Gramberry hopes the program will show her daughters how school work translates to real life.

"Seeing how those types of things, science, engineering, and math, apply in daily life and the fun things that you can do with that. They learn that in those classes then take that into the world and say, ‘Hey maybe I'll have a career out of this,'" Gramberry says.

The University Academy classes will be optional, so students who don't want to participate can leave on a bus at 4:15.

The grant allows Winona ISD to pay pre-k teachers to stay with their students until 4:15, it also allows the district to pay high school teachers to tutor any high school bus riders until 4:15.

Shetter is asking parents and students for patience as they work out some kinks, "Right now to a kiddo it's like, 'Oh bummer, I've got to sit here and do my homework and it's not like I can weasel out because I have to sit here until the bus runs.'"

But Shetter believes the program will make the whole district better.

"What's best for our kids? Most of our kids could use extra help and a lot of our parents could use some time getting homework done," Shetter says.

She hopes once the University Academy classes start, kids won't even be thinking about the extra time.

Winona ISD is working to put out a course catalogue so parents can see what classes will be offered. Students who enroll in those classes will be able to take a school bus home as late as 6:30.

The district says every student who takes the bus home at 4:15 will be given a snack. 

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