Junction City was awarded the grant five years ago. Unless the program receives continuation funding, though, it will expire at the end of the school year.
Program director Scott Bolling said staff and students at Junction City hope that the sun is not setting on the program they believe has become a necessity.
"We are not just providing child care," he said. "Everything we are doing after school is related in some way to the core content and it is such an important resource for the kids. Unfortunately, if we do not get the continuation funds, it is done for."
The first three years, the school received $140,000, which was reduced by 75 percent in the fourth year and by 50 percent to $70,000 this year. Continuation money would provide $75,000 over the next two years.
The application process is extremely competitive. In 2006, only 13 of 80 first-year requests were funded.
Funding comes from the federal government but is granted by the state to schools with Title 1 classification, which is based on the number of students below the poverty line.
When schools apply for the grant, they are required to devise a sustainability plan, which outlines funding mechanisms that could keep the program running once the federal money runs out.
Junction City is now dealing with the challenge of maintaining an expensive program in a place that was granted funds in part because of low socioeconomic standing.
Bolling said the economic situation could make it even more difficult to raise necessary funds.
"It is really a catch 22 when you are supposed to be looking for partnerships and funding in this climate," he said. "We have partnered with different organizations in the past. Now we are looking for donations and trying to do things like scholarships and sponsorships to keep this going."
Junction City is the only area school with an active 21st Century grant, but several others have been involved with the program in the past and some have applied in this year's grant process.
Junction City's learning center affected about 200 students to some degree last year, and there are about 50 kids who attend on a daily basis this year.
In addition to attendance numbers, schools are required to track data on academic performance for students who attend the learning center.
Bolling points to the fact that reading and math scores have increased across the board at the school.
"I think there is a profound impact on academics," he said. "With ESS (Extended School Services) we can provide tutoring once, maybe, twice a week. Our teachers have fully bought into this, and they really focus on building on what is taught during the day."
Barbara Anderson, who oversees grades four and five, said there is a noticeable difference for many children served by the program.
"I think that many of the kids here might fall behind without it," she said. "A lot of them would go to unsupervised homes while their parents are still at work. Instead, they get to improve their study habits and get help on their homework."
Jackie Lemonds, who works with second- and third-grade students, thinks the program is just as important to the community as it is to the individual students.
"To lose it would be crippling to some of these students," she said. "It helps them academically, but it also keeps them in and around the school doing positive things. It would not be good for the community not to have that."
Bolling said that the social benefits of the learning center are just as important. He points to the activities that students also enjoy.
"When we first started to do the archery here, there was a little boy with almost no communication," he said. "After a couple of months having some success at archery, he came up to me and introduced himself in the hall. I almost fell over, I was so surprised at how it brought him out of his shell."
Bolling said Junction City has finally been able to create an environment that kids enjoy instead of just tolerate.
"The kids love to be here, and that makes a huge difference," he said. "Most of them don't want to leave at the end of the day. It's going to take the whole community, not just Junction City, to keep it going."