- Associated Press - Monday, September 26, 2016

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - A group of volunteer tutors tripled the number of kindergartners they serve in the city’s neediest elementary schools in the last two years and could triple that number again if they had more volunteers.

“We could easily do that,” says Charles Schott, a Brookfield retiree who organized the volunteer group three years ago. “It is very scalable, as long as we have the volunteers.”

The program, known as Kindergartners In Danbury Schools, or K.I.D.S., sends volunteers into classrooms to help kindergartners improve their reading and math skills. Depending on what teachers need, volunteers might tutor students one-on-one or help them in small groups.

“The one thing we impress upon the volunteers is that in addition to this, they also become mentors and other significant caring adults in the lives of these kids,” said Schott, a former IBM software programmer. “I can’t walk down the halls without getting several hugs from some of these kids- I mean, it is most heartwarming.”

Danbury is one of the few school districts in the state that is growing. District-wide, the schools are growing by 2 percent each year, but at some of the elementary schools, enrollment is jumping by as much as 5 percent each year.

The city is also dealing with a rising poverty rate and an increasingly diverse student body. More than half of Danbury‘s 11,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. More than 40 languages are spoken in city schools.

In response, Schott teamed up with the Danbury-based Association of Religious Communities to recruit volunteers to give the city’s neediest kindergartners extra attention.

“(T)his program gives people a chance to work with young students in our community and make a difference in their educational goals,” said the Rev. Phyllis Leopold, the executive director of ARC, in a prepared statement.

A senior school district official agreed.

“It is amazing what the power of one caring adult can have on the life of a child,” said William Glass, assistant superintendent of Danbury schools, in a prepared statement. “The simple act of reading to a child or just listening to a child read to you can have very positive outcomes on that child’s reading development.”

Today the K.I.D.S. program has 38 volunteers assigned to 11 classrooms in three city elementary schools. The number of children helped jumped from 80 two years ago to 250 this year.

“If we had 10 more volunteers, we could go into a fourth school,” Schott said.

The group will hold an informational luncheon of sandwiches, salads and cookies for prospective volunteers on Sept. 30.

K.I.D.S volunteers donate two hours each week from October through June.

“Two hours is not too imposing,” Schott said. “And as anyone who is a volunteer in this program will tell you, it is one of the best things you will do all week.”


Information from: The News-Times, https://www.newstimes.com

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