Grants to Help Keep Students in School

The Santa Paula Elementary School District is the only district in California to receive more than one state grant this year to fund an outreach program to keep students in school.

The California Department of Education has rewarded Blanchard and McKevett elementary schools with $47,000 each in motivation and maintenance grants. School officials said they expect to receive part of the three-year grant this month.

"I was so thrilled they chose us to do this and they did it on the basis of the commitment we had before to this program," schools Supt. Bonnie Bruington said.

The money would go toward paying the salary and benefits of outreach consultants, whose duties include figuring out how to keep the students in school. For more than a decade, the district has employed consultants who often visit homes to learn why a student is absent.

Sometimes the consultants learn the student missed school because of such problems as family medical problems or the family can't afford school clothes.

"They are really very special people because they have to know the community," Bruington said of the consultants. "Their role is to set up the connection so the child can receive the food or the clothes so they can come back to school."

Also, the consultants often volunteer to work after school to involve students in sports such as basketball, soccer and flag football.

In the past, the district has dipped into its own money to provide a consultant for every school that does not receive a state grant. The district will continue to do the same in the future, Bruington said.

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