Aug. 26, 2020 | Virtual kindergarten

FILE — Yakima School District superintendent Trevor Greene, right, says hello to a kindergarten student during an individual conference with their teacher Sara Coyner, left, during the first day of school at McKinley Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Yakima, Wash.

Three Yakima School District elementary campuses were awarded federal grants to launch before-school learning programs focusing on science, math and reading.

Starting in the fall, Adams, McKinley and Ridgeview elementary schools will launch 45-minute school help periods prior to the start of the school day. About 240 students across the three campuses are expected to receive services each year for five years, according to a news release Monday from Educational Service District 105, an agency that provides support to regional school districts. Programs will be tailored to schools’ specific needs.

The new funds will also support supplies for students and teachers, training sessions, employment of a half-time coordinator, three instructional aides and a portion of a teacher’s time, as well as a summer program and monthly family engagement activities.

ESD 105 learned about the U.S. Department of Education grant in December. It’s an expansion of the 21st Century Grant that the ESD and Yakima School District have been running at Washington Middle School, Barge-Lincoln Elementary and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary since 2019, ESD 105 said in a statement. In the fall, the programs transitioned to activity-based learning kits mailed to students’ homes “to assist them on building their math, reading and problem-solving skills.”

The previous grant awarded renewable funds of $500,000 each year combined across the three campuses for up to five years, while the new grant will provide about $370,000 across the additional schools with renewed funding amounts to be determined.

According to ESD 105, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative “is the only federal funding source devoted to promoting after-school programs, and is designed to support the creation of academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students from high-poverty areas.”

Funding is directed through the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, it said.

K.C. Mitchell, principal of Ridgeview Elementary, said that during his 20 years as a principal, he’s overseen two schools with 21st Century grants and witnessed their impact on children — making him eager to see the program come to Ridgeview.

He said the grant funding promotes equity, providing direct services to kids for resources and support that they might not otherwise have access to.

“This is really valuable to kids,” he said. “The focus on kids and how directly these dollars contribute to helping kids be most successful is what’s most exciting to me.”

Reach Janelle Retka at or on Twitter: @janelleretka