PORTLAND — A grant from the Maine Department of Education will fund LearningWorks after-school programs for 1,400 Portland and Biddeford students over the next five years.

The $2.4 million grant will fund the opening of four more LearningWorks program sites: two in Portland and two in Biddeford. The two new Portland sites join two already established at East End Community School and Reiche Elementary School.

“Thanks to this grant, learning won’t end when the traditional school day is over,” Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk said in a press release. “I am very thankful to LearningWorks for this partnership.”

Amy Pinchette, program director for LearningWorks, said the East End Community School and Reiche sites each currently serve around 60 students a day, and the plan is for similar numbers to be served at the Presumpscot Elementary School and Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

The after-school programs focus on a “STEAM” curriculum – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – and provide an extended learning time for students having a difficult time meeting the standards.

“(The program) gives students opportunities to extend their education and have more time learning,” Pinchette said. “It keeps them engaged (in learning) and there are a number of activities they can do after school.”

The new sites are set to open on Feb. 4 and they will run through the end of the school year.

Each site will have a specific theme around which the curriculum is based; at the new sites, teachers will focus on measurement, while at the current sites they will travel into space to study the stars.

“We have worked with school to identify some of the skills that students are weakest on based on test scores,” she said.

Curriculum will follow the themes with activities that support the lessons. Each student receives a notebook in which they write down ideas, keep vocabulary words, draw diagrams and make predictions about the topic they are studying.

In addition to traditional education programs, students are offered the opportunity to join different clubs to continue their engagement. Pinchette said that there is a club for any interest from book clubs to sports to LEGO robotics.

“We try to make the program as engaging as possible,” she said . “We want them to be here so we do as much as we can to keep them wanting to come back and referring their friends.”

A similar summer program, aimed at continuing student learning, runs four hours a day for four weeks at the existing sites and five weeks at the new sites.

Amber Cronin can be reached at [email protected] or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.

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