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Starfish program returns for Steel Valley youngsters

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 4:06 a.m.
Looking over the hands on learning kits that will be taken back to their classrooms for the after school program are from left Lauren Rowe of Emerson Elementary West Mifflin, Dina DiCenzo of Clara Barton Elementary West Mifflin, and Brigid Laird of Park Elementary in the Steel Valley School District. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Jill Fleming-Salopek, assistant principal Steel Valley High School welcomes teachers from both West Mifflin Area School District and Steel Valley School District to learn about the Starfish program by the YMCA. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

Steel Valley is reintroducing the YMCA's Starfish After School Program for its second- and third-grade students.

“It's an extended-day program for students in second and third grade,” assistant high school principal Jill Fleming-Salopek said. “We did a kick-off by adding it as a component to the summer reading camp. The program has a lot to offer. They've been here before and we're fortunate to get them back again.”

Jason Cendroski of the YMCA said the Starfish After School Program is being brought back as a year-long program.

“Typically we ran a 12-week program,” he said. “This year we decided to go the entire year. The program is provided through a grant from the EQT Foundation.”

The 90-minute program will be offered twice a week for 24 weeks from October to May. There will be 25 students participating from each Barrett and Park elementary schools starting next week.

“We'll employ two teachers – one lead teacher and one assistant,” Cendroski said. “We're going to assess our progress through an assessment tool called Children's Progress. What districts need to provide is just a standard classroom, a snack for the students, transportation home, access to the computers labs for Children's Progress and suggested teachers.”

He said he's been in touch with building principals to find those teachers.

Cendroski said the children are first assessed, then a report is established on their strengths and deficiencies and they are taught based upon that report.

“The mission of the program is to reach each student in a fun and interactive way,” he said.

The program will be covering early literacy and mathematics.

Fleming-Salopek said the Starfish Program is connected to the $620,870 Keystone to Opportunity grant the district recently received.

“One of the major components of the Keystone to Opportunity grant is to create a comprehensive literacy plan,” she said. “The plan must be modeled after the commonwealth's plan and yet still be tailored to the specific needs of the Steel Valley community. Fortunately for us, we will be able to use grant funds to create our plan. Other districts in years to come will be mandated to create their own literacy plan without the benefit of the grant funding.”

McKeesport YMCA executive director Dexter Hairston said the Starfish After School Program is targeted to second and third graders, but the YMCA offers a variety of other after-school opportunities for students.

“A lot of folks look at us as a place to play basketball and swim, and a membership facility,” he said. “What we really are is fast approaching 50 after-school sites in Allegheny County.”

Hairston said the YMCA is starting an after-school program with South Allegheny and is expected to start one in Clairton City School District and McKeesport Area School District.

“It's a school-age childcare program that we can target any grade levels that you would like,” he said.

Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or