FARMINGTON — A $1.5 million grant will provide after-school and summer camp experiences to Regional School Unit 9 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The grant is the result of a partnership between RSU 9 and the Franklin County Children’s Task Force to reduce child abuse and neglect. It was announced during a meeting of the F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N. Advisory Panel. The acronym stands for Friends Reducing Abuse and Neglect of Kids Living in our Neighborhoods.

The programs will begin in September, with funds from the Century 21 grant spread over five years, said Renee Whitley, executive director of the Children’s Task Force.

Known as Franklin 21, the program will provide child care, fun and help with academics after school and during the summer for students in Mallett School and Cascade Brook in Farmington, Cushing and Academy Hill schools in Wilton and Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon.

Activities will focus on health, science, technology, engineering, math, arts and physical fitness, Whitley said. They will include:

* Help with homework or tutoring;

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* Social and emotional nurturing through mentoring relationships during the extended-day, extended-year program;

* Field trips intended to provide exposure to other parts of the state for children who have never left Franklin County.

Parents can register for the September program beginning July 1. Whitley said the program will begin the week after Farmington Fair, which is traditionally the third week of September.

To run the program, 29 full- and part-time positions will be created. Job descriptions are being completed and interviews are expected to begin by mid to late June, Whitley said.

The potential for mentors and volunteers from the University of Maine at Farmington is being explored, she said.

Program sites are planned at Mallett School, Academy Hill School and during the school year at Cape Cod Hill School. During the summer, students in New Sharon will be bused to the other sites, according to Leanne Condon, director of curriculum/assistant superintendent of the Mt. Blue Regional School Unit.

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Because of the county’s rural nature, transportation was a major piece considered by the Maine Department of Education, which is administering the grant. The program hours will extend to 5:30 p.m. for parents to pick up children or shuttle buses will be available.

With a high rate of food insecurity in Franklin County, the grant will also provide breakfast, snacks and lunch for the children and parents involved in activities, Whitley said.

“We’ve been tasked to engage parents in the process,” she said. That might include helping to serve snacks, sharing a talent or interest with the students or attending a monthly parent engagement night.

The program is intended to help reduce parental concern about after-school care and to help parents be more involved in the educational process, and to provide social connections and knowledge of child development, she said.

While working over the past year to reduce Franklin County’s high rate of abuse and neglect, the Children’s Task Force staff reached out to the community to determine what is wanted and needed. The new offerings are a part of the prevention plan for Franklin County, she said. 

A survey was done earlier this spring and parents expressed a lot of interest in the program, said Stacie Bourassa, community educator for the Children’s Task Force.

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The grant targets a specific population, so local funding will be used to ensure any student can take part, Condon said.

“It will be a community effort, but it will let every child know there are people who care about them,” Whitley said.

Registration will be available on the task force website, at the schools or at the task force office on Church Street.

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