CLINTON — For the past 15 years, the Clinton School District has offered after-school tutoring and learning opportunities with the goal of improving students’ academic performance.

Today in Des Moines, the Iowa Afterschool Alliance and Iowa Department of Education will recognize Clinton’s program as one of the best in 21st Century Community Learning Centers with a 21CCLC Stars Award for math improvement, according to program director Loras Osterhaus.

The Student Adventures Afterschool Project at Clinton’s four elementary schools and middle school aim to improve math and reading proficiency but also provide additional learning opportunities through field trips and guest speakers, Osterhaus said. A couple of years ago, Clinton schools won the Iowa Afterschool Alliance and Iowa Department of Education award for literacy improvement.

About 345 students, who have tested below proficiency levels in either math or reading and whose parents enrolled them, participated during the 2017-2018 school year. Nearly 80% improved their math proficiency, Osterhaus said.

“We offer tutoring three times a week at each of the sites,” Osterhaus said. They are provided homework assistance three or four times a week. “So they get a lot of extra academic help.”

Students have a snack and read for a bit, then go to tutoring or to an enrichment program offered by organizations such as the YWCA, New Directions Area Substance Abuse Council, Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center, the county sheriff’s office and the Iowa State University Extension Office.

The students leave the schools for field trips on Wednesdays, Osterhaus said. “[Field trips] provide these extra learning experiences” and a little fun, he said.

The afterschool program has taken students to the Clinton County Historical Society Museum; the Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center; the Fulton, Illinois de Immigrant windmill; and to the county conservation office for a Blue Heron cruise on the Mississippi River. Sometimes the group travels to Davenport to the Putnam Museum and Science Center or to an art museum.

Student proficiency is tested three times a year, and the Clinton School District has seen improvement in scores for students enrolled in the afterschool program, Osterhaus said.

“We’ve been very pleased with how things have worked out,” he said.

The program is federally funded and often under threat of being discontinued, Osterhaus said.

“We’re on the chopping block again this year,” he said.

Osterhaus hopes advocates reaching out to legislators will keep funding available.

Site Coordinator Ally Comstock plans and prepares tutoring and field trips for students at Bluff Elementary School.

“A lot of them seem to like it,” Comstock said, though as children get older they are more likely to want to go home and play video games.

“And there’s a lot more sports when they get older, too,” Comstock said.

But Bluff students seem happy to be in the program, Comstock said. They have a snack, read to themselves or to other students, complete homework assignments and look forward to field trip days.

Last week, students visited the Municipal Transit Administration and toured the city on an MTA bus.

To win an award over all the other afterschool programs in the state, “That’s pretty big,” Comstock said.

Arieonna Musch, a third-grader, read a Dark Diaries book Monday afternoon, but her favorite part of the afterschool program is that “we get to do games. Like, we go in the gym and play sharks and minnows.”

Third-grader Jerzi Hill read to a group of first-graders while Jacquelyn Walters and Marlee Stickell read silently to themselves.

“You get to play in the gym, and you read books and you go on field trips,” Walters said, explaining why she likes being in the program.

Stickell likes the field trips, too, but realizes that if students have trouble with math or reading, teachers are available to help.

“Everybody can feel comfortable talking to teachers about problems,” Stickell said.

A native of Centerville, Winona comes to the Clinton Herald after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.