In Touch Academy Partners with Accomack Schools for After-School Services

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The Rev. Willie Justis, center, holding a signed memorandum of understanding between In Touch Academy and Accomack County Public Schools, stands under a portrait of Mary Nottinham Smith at Mary Nottingham Smith Cultural Enrichment Center with Colby West of the Mary Notttingham Smith Cultural Enrichment Center, left, and Rhonda Hall, assistant superintendent of instruction for Accomack County Public Schools, right., on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn —

In Touch Academy, Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding with Accomack County Public Schools March 24 to provide after-school services to students.
“It’s an agreement that we’re going to work together with two of the elementary schools, Accawmacke Elementary and Metompkin,” said Pastor Willie D. Justis, program director of In Touch Academy.
The academy in the past has offered summer and after-school programs to provide extra assistance to at-risk students.
Now it is applying for a $150,000, three-year grant through the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
The application deadline is April 9 and grant awards will be announced in July.
In Touch Academy plans to hold its programs at Mary Nottingham Smith Cultural Enrichment Center in Accomac, as it has previously.
The Title IV grant program supports the creation of opportunities for academic enrichment during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program helps students meet state and local standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and mathematics; offers students enrichment activities that complement regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.
“What they are trying to do is they are trying to get more community involvement with the school systems,” said Rhonda Hall, assistant superintendent of instruction for Accomack County Public Schools.
After In Touch Academy’s board of directors proposed partnering with the school district, “We decided it was something that we wanted to offer our kids, because of course, any time we can provide kids with some extra assistance, that’s what we want to do,” Hall said.
“Our goal is to serve 100 kids a week,” Justis said.
The school district will provide transportation for students who attend after-school programs at MNS and In Touch Academy tutors will stay in touch with students’ teachers, with parents’ permission, to communicate about how best to help each student.
“We want it to be a smooth transition, and seamless, so that they can continue working with what the teachers are working with,” Hall said.
The Virginia Department of Education earlier this year invited school divisions, nonprofit organizations, local government agencies, faith-based organizations, colleges and universities and for-profit corporations to apply for grants through the program.
“Community learning centers will play an important role in supporting the efforts of school divisions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on student learning and help students to make up the ground that they have lost,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said in January, when the invitation was announced.
The federal grant program was authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.
Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. VDOE expects to award around 30 three-year grants of $50,000 to $200,000 per year and will give priority to applications that meet one or more of the following criteria:
Joint applications between at least one school division and at least one public or private community organization;
Proposals to serve students in schools that either are identified for federal support and improvement;
Proposals to serve students in middle or high schools; and
Proposals to serve students who attend schools with a free and reduced-price lunch eligibility rate of 75% or greater.
Justis said if COVID-19 protocols allow, In Touch Academy plans to hold a modified summer camp program and to start the full after-school program in fall.
Information about In Touch Academy can be viewed at https://intouchacademy.org/, where donations also may be made to the program.
In Touch Academy also is on Facebook.