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Grant will help improve Fort Worth's after-school program

FORT WORTH--City and school leaders on Wednesday hailed the after-school programs offered to Fort Worth children, saying the 12-year-old program is an example of both public entities working well together.

A partnership between Fort Worth and the Fort Worth school district, Fort Worth After School started with 52 sites in 2000 and has grown to 94 sites where students participate in educational activities after classes.

But organizers want the availability, management and quality of the programs to be more consistent across the locations. So officials are launching an oversight organization to coordinate the programs, develop standards and training offerings and create a database where parents can look up program details.

The coordinating entity is called Fort Worth SPARC!, which stands for Strengthen Programs through Advocacy, Resources & Collaboration.

To pay for the project, Fort Worth After School received a $760,000 grant from the New York-based Wallace Foundation for work through spring 2016. Fort Worth was one of nine cities to get this round of grants, Mayor Betsy Price has said.

School district and city staffers outlined the project on Wednesday at a joint meeting of the school board and city council at Jean McClung Middle School in east Fort Worth.

Council member Sal Espino told his colleagues that the after-school program should be expanded.

"This is one partnership that really works," Espino said. "Ninety-four sites is not enough. I wish we could have this in every school."

While the grant won't pay to expand the program, implementing improvements will help strengthen the program to bolster their case when seeking outside funding to get additional sites, said Miguel Garcia Jr., program director.

"We are the largest structured after-school program in the state, bigger than Houston and Dallas," Garcia said. "We are tracking their [student] performance in school and there is a strong correlation between longer and more frequent attendance in after-school and passage of core classes."

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown

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