GRAND COULEE, Wash. - Spring has barely arrived, but school districts across the state are already thinking about summer. They're scrambling to find money to keep programs running for students who otherwise have limited options - not only for activities, but for healthy meals.
In the Grant County community of Grand Coulee, the school district runs the only summer program in the region, serving up to 100 youngsters. Its grant director, Mary Schilling, says more than half the families in the district are considered low-income.
"Especially now with this financial crisis that our country's in, when families are having to work more and second, third jobs. Many kids are these kind of latchkey kids that we normally think of during the school year. They have all summer where there's really no one at home."
It's always a struggle for the Grand Coulee Dam School District, Schilling says, adding that most schools don't have funding for summer activities and must rely on grants and donations.
"It's a constant concern. I try not to worry. I tend to be a worrier, but you never know. We had one summer where we were faced with not having funding from our major grant source, when the governor had to cut back on spending and that was one of the things that took a hit."
To keep students active and learning, Schilling says summer programs are just as important as the months they spend in school.
"Having an opportunity to participate in some sort of a program where there's a caring adult, and some sort of structured activity going on - and then, the benefit of two meals - really can make the difference in a kid's life, and their preparation for high school and college."
About 15 summer programs will receive money for books and food from the group School's Out Washington as part of a grant program called "Feed Your Brain." The deadline for those applications is April 1. Information on the grants and how to apply is online at schoolsoutwashington.org.