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September 25, 2019

$149,000 grant will support northern learning centers

Students take part in educational activities at the Bland-Graham Learning Den in Marshall, which will house the new program for students in Grades 5-8.
Fauquier County Public Schools and the Middleburg-based Windy Hill Foundation have received a $149,740 state grant to develop a “21st Century Community Learning Center.”

The Virginia Department of Education funds will allow foundation, working with the school system, to create the Horizons program serving children who live in Windy Hill housing in Marshall and The Plains, along with their neighbors who attend W.G. Coleman Elementary, Claude Thompson Elementary and Marshall Middle schools.

The department of education learning centers promote equitable educational opportunities for students with tutoring and enrichment activities that complement regular academic programs, according to schools’ spokeswoman Tara Helkowski. The centers also provide educational services for families of participating children.

“Locally, Horizons will offer students well-rounded educational weekly programming that includes outdoor and environmental education in cooperation with Fauquier County Parks and Recreation, nutrition and physical education that promotes a healthy and active lifestyle in collaboration with Fauquier FISH and FRESH (Fauquier Reaches for Excellence in School Health), fine arts, performing arts and STEM instruction with local partners, as well as monthly field trips and summer camps,” Ms. Helkowski said in a press release.

“The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant will greatly expand Windy Hill Foundation’s ability to offer high-quality, after-school and out-of-school programming for the approximately 200 resident children who live in Windy Hill Communities in Fauquier County,” said Claire Louis, the foundation’s program director. “By partnering with W.G. Coleman, Claude Thompson, and Marshall Middle – the schools that most of our Fauquier County resident children attend – Windy Hill Foundation is able to strengthen the school-home bond and our families’ connection to the greater community. The joint Horizons program also follows our long-standing practice of serving not only resident children but also their neighbors and friends.”

A free program, Horizons will meet weekdays after school and offer transportation between schools. Students in grades K-4 will attend Horizons at Claude Thompson Elementary and students in grades 5-8 will attend at the Bland-Graham Learning Den at the Marshall Community Center.

Jennifer Armstrong and David Seward, lead teachers at the Claude Thompson and the Bland-Graham Learning Den, respectively, said the look forward to expanding the support for students through the Horizons Program.

“The Den is filled with the sounds of laughter, smiles of friendship, and comments like, ‘Can you help with my math homework?’ ” Mr. Seward said. “The educators who support the program tap years of teaching experience and have built relationships with our kids that are reflected in greater student self-confidence and motivation, which is enabling them to tackle challenging new schoolwork.”

Ms. Armstrong added: “As an educator and as someone that grew up in Fauquier, I have seen the need in our community for a way to support our children and provide them with safe places to learn and grow beyond the school day.

“The Horizons Program will fill this void and will be able to give youth the love and support they need to thrive and to ultimately contribute to the wonderful tapestry that is Fauquier.”

The department of education recently awarded 28 grants.
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