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LPJ Middle School gets 21st Century grant

Luther Porter Jackson Middle School in Surry County was one of 51 schools to recently receive a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant from the state.

The grants range from $50,000 to $200,000. Luther Porter Jackson Middle School was on the higher end of that range, receiving $184,500.

The money will go toward an after-school program, which offers middle school students two hours of tutoring in math and English four days a week, and additional instruction in science and history. The program also includes a partnership with the Virginia Cooperative Extension called Teen Cuisine to provide nutrition and fitness activities.

There is also a mentoring component — called Boys To Men for males and Precious Jewels/Gems for females. Sixth-graders are Jewels and seventh- and eighth-graders are Gems, program director Brittney Johnson explained. The school has also partnered with SONA Bank to offer financial literacy nights.

The program has been run virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This isn’t the first time Surry County Public Schools has received a 21st Century grant. In fact, the division has received one almost every year Johnson has been teaching there. This is her second year running the grant program.

While the program does help compensate for the lack of after-school activities available to middle-school-age children in Surry County, its primary goal is to help students who are struggling academically. This means in the event there are more sign-ups than available slots, enrollment will be need-based.

“We usually have enough space for anyone who enrolls,” Johnson said. “We look at data to drive those decisions, data and teacher recommendations.”

These come from students’ scores on Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests and their classroom performance.

“The support 21st Century Community Learning Centers provide to students and families is more important than ever given the disruptions to learning that have occurred due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane in a press release announcing each of this year’s grant recipients. “I congratulate and thank all school divisions and partnering organizations receiving these grants for stepping up and providing these opportunities.”

The grant also funds a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camp, which will run for two six-week sessions, as well as a summer school for students in need of remediation.