Sometimes two schools are better than one.
North Harlem Elementary School and Harlem Middle School recently collaborated on an application for a Georgia Department of Education Reading Challenge grant.
The result was a $93,600 grant to begin an after-school reading program to help improve pupils' reading skills.
"I'm so excited, I can't take it," said Dr. Sharlotte Evans, principal at North Harlem Elementary.
Statewide, 160 public and private schools will receive portions of $10 million set aside for the program by the state's General Assembly.
The Reading Challenge program is geared toward pupils between fourth and eighth grades.
It's similar to the Reading First program designed for kindergarten to third-grade pupils.
The neighboring North Harlem Elementary and Harlem Middle schools should get the after-school program off the ground in October, Dr. Evans said.
"We've been wanting to do something in the after-school program, but we just didn't have the funding to do it," she said. "So this gives us the opportunity to fulfill that dream."
West Haven Preschool & Learning Center -- a private center -- was the only other Columbia County grant recipient.
The center received $31,200.
Dr. Evans said she expects the program to help about 60 pupils initially.
The grant will help cover the cost of teacher salaries, supplies, computer equipment, transportation and staff development, she said.
Geoff Schlichter, principal at Harlem Middle School, said the two schools still have to work out details of how to set up the program.
The middle school currently offers tutoring programs before and after school.
The Reading Challenge grant, however, will allow the schools to focus solely on reading, Mr. Schlichter said.
"This will just provide that much more resources to help those students who really need as much assistance as possible," he said.