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Grant supporting FACT program expires in May

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

A student welfare program that Somerville Road Elementary School Principal Dee Dee Jones says her school depends on is running out of money.

In January 2005, the school joined with Decatur's Parents and Children Together and the Mental Health Center of North Alabama to start a Family Assistance through Community Ties program.

The partnership is funding the program with a $45,000 grant from the National Children's Advocacy Center.

But Susan Roberts, parenting coordinator for PACT, told the Decatur Board of Education on Tuesday that this money disappears in May, and the center does not have more money to give the program.

PACT provides a part-time therapist and a part-time coordinator for the FACT program. It helps solve issues of poverty for students and their families that might affect a student's education.

With 91 percent of students qualifying for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, Somerville Road has one of the highest poverty rates in the city.

Jones said she's seen FACT help parents schedule doctor visits for their children and get them there, find places to live, get a washer and dryer, find day care for young siblings, and solve many more emotional and financial issues. This work allows principals, teachers and students to focus on academics.

"They've really helped a lot of students in need," Jones said.

Decatur funds FACT programs at West Decatur and Austinville elementaries with state At-Risk funds. Roberts said the program has helped 229 families so far, providing 549 services.

Superintendent Sam Houston said he would like to expand FACT to other schools, but funding continues to be an issue for all three. He said PACT and the school system would continue looking for other federal or state grants. If unsuccessful, he would then seek help from the community.

"Our community has always responded very favorably when they see that our children are in need," Houston said. "I hope they see the value in this program that's become a model for children's advocacy groups."

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