Even though the Accelerated Learning Activities Program (ALAP) was cut from the school budget, the ALAP PTA has banded together to provide the students from the program one last special event, known as ALAP University.
The final ALAP U will take place Saturday at Pilgrim High School. A popular event in the past, ALAP U allows ALAP students the opportunity to take three or four fun classes such as chess, robotics, art or improv over the course of one day. Although this year’s event will be slightly different from past ones, students will still have the chance for additional enrichment outside of the classroom.
ALAP was a program for high-performing students at all Warwick elementary schools in grades three through six. Designated ALAP teachers would take these students out of their regular classrooms for one hour each week, giving them the opportunity to work on additional skills and special projects. It also provided these high-performing students the opportunity to work in groups with students whose learning abilities were comparable to their own.
When the program was cut during budget deliberation over the summer of 2013, there were attempts from parents to reinstate the program, but they ultimately failed.
Sarah Lockhart is the president of the ALAP PTA, which was responsible for fundraising and supporting special events for the ALAP program such as ALAP U. Even though the program was cut, the PTA still had a balance from previous years’ fundraising. Instead of just turning the money over to the Rhode Island PTA, a group of six parents including Lockhart decided to organize one final ALAP U for their kids.
“Year after year, you do fundraising and you always have a little bit of a balance. We really wanted to use it just for the kids,” explained Lockhart. “This was the only reason we kept the PTA active.”
This is especially meaningful to students who would have experienced ALAP for the first time this school year, but were not able to.
With assistance from elementary school principals and Director of Curriculum Dr. Anne Siesel, Lockhart sent word of the event to as many former ALAP students as she could. A special email was set up to allow parents to RSVP for their kids, and the event started to come together.
“We did the best we could to contact those who had been recently accepted,” said Lockhart.
The response was great. Lockhart expects close to 125 students to attend on Saturday.
“Some kids were just thrilled,” said Lockhart. The PTA has been working to build up the excitement as much as possible.
In the past, students have been able to select from a list of potential classes to take during ALAP U, but this year classes are limited, so Lockhart and her fellow PTA members generated schedules for the students. Each student will rotate through three or four classes, depending on what is on their schedule. For example, the always-popular Lego Robotics program takes up two class periods. This year’s classes include a science class (one with Save The Bay), an art class, chess, poetry and music. A lottery was used to select students for the limited seats in Lego Robotics and Learning to Crochet.
“We tried to make it diverse,” said Lockhart. “We wanted to tap into an interest for everyone and expose them to something new.”
One difference this year is the event is free for the students; in the past they would usually pay $20 to $25 to offset the cost.
“Because we’re trying to use up the budget, it’s no expense to them,” said Lockhart.
The day begins at about 9:30 a.m. and will last until 2:30 p.m. Midway through the day, students will have a pizza lunch and special raffle. In addition to a free t-shirt and notebook for the event, Lockhart said the PTA hopes to send each student home with a small gift.