Photo Gallery: National Grid donation
NORTH ADAMS -- Sullivan Elementary School's after-school-robotics program has been saved from the chopping block.
The 10-member robotics club, known as Sullivan SWAT (Students Winning at Technology), will meet today for the first time since being cut from the after-school roster in late August thanks to a $5,000 donation from National Grid and $2,000 teacher externship grant from the Berkshire Regional Employment Board.
"We're just so thankful that National Grid and Berkshire Regional Employment have stepped up to do this," Superintendent James E. Montepare said Monday. "This is just one of those great programs that was heartbreaking to give up. In the 11th hour, some great friends came through for us. I can't tell you how much we appreciative it and how appreciative the families are."
The program has also received a $300 donation in mats from General Dynamics and a donation of instructional materials from Berkshire County 4-H.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said the decision to discontinue the robotics program was one North Adams Public School officials struggled with this summer after learning that a state 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Continuation Grant for Sullivan's after-school programs hadn't come through. With no funding sources available for after-school programs at Greylock and Sullivan, district officials began efforts to find ways to continue to provide programming for those students at Brayton Elementary.
"The superintendent was really creative in finding ways to transport the students from Greylock and Sullivan into Brayton to continue programming for those kids," he said. "Part of the challenge was to ensure that most kids benefited at some level with the programming offered and to maximize the dollars we had to make sure as many kids as possible could participate. Unfortunately [the robotics program] had to be cut as it is a very expensive program."
Montepare said the robotics program costs about $6,000 to operate, compared to the cost to provide other after-school offerings, which range in cost from $720 to $1,900.
The overall cost of the after-school program at Brayton, which is in the second-year of a three-year grant, is about $100,000 annually.
The after-school program, which offers three sessions of activities over the course of 32 weeks, has about 50 offerings a week and is serving some 300 students in grades K-7.
"When we learned the funding was not going to provided, we began having these conversations and reached out to the parents, who were willing to help fund the program, but it's a very expensive program," he said. "I had already paid the program's registration fee, but we couldn't scrape up that kind of money. At the end of the day, we have to make sure we're serving as many students as possible and this is a big ticket item."
Alcombright acknowledged that several of the parents who have children in the program had expressed their frustration with the cuts on Facebook and to district officials.
"It was disappointing to certain families and children who had been participating in it. That created some angst. Jim and I got to work and started calling some friends," he said. "Jim contacted Berkshire Regional Employment, which provided us with the $2,000 in funds for the teacher portion. I called Joanne DeRose over at National Grid, who was able to secure $5,000 in funding in the time it took me to travel to Pittsfield for a meeting."
DeRose, National Grid's principal manager of community and customer jurisdiction, was on hand to present a "giant check" to Alcombright and Montepare on Monday afternoon.