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Holmes County Schools launch new after-school program in place of WINGS

HOLMES COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) — For the first time in nearly two decades, a popular after-school program will not be offered to students in Holmes County this year because the district was denied necessary federal funds. But educators and district officials are getting creative with setting up a similar program so kids aren’t denied the help they might need.

School may stop when the bell rings, but that doesn’t mean you stop learning. The WINGS Afterschool Program has been helping Holmes County students for nearly 20 years, giving elementary and middle school students the extra help many need.

“There are only so many hours in any given school day. The afternoon program gave us an extra hour, hour and a half to provide extra support,” said Holmes County School Board Superintendent Buddy Brown. “Across the district, we were probably serving about 500 kids at most at any one time.”

But last year, the district was denied additional federal funding to maintain the program.

“Where is this money going? It’s still coming into the state of Florida, but frankly it’s being redirected probably a bit further south, into more urban areas,” Brown said.

Superintendent Brown said they couldn’t turn the kids away, so they had to get creative. Instead of federal dollars, they are using remaining ESSER II funding and US Relief Plan funding. Although the new tracking program will have less money to work with, he said it would still be the same experience for students.

“For academic acceleration, help with homework, some extracurricular activities for the children who are having a bit of fun. And also snacks and food for them in the afternoon,” Brown said.

There are advantages to no longer being a federal program.

“We will be able to open our doors to a few more students who were not necessarily based on academic needs. Sometimes it’s also based on social needs,” Brown said.

The new program will start at the beginning of October. Those in need of help academically will be given priority, but any subsequent openings will go to students on a first-come, first-served basis.

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