Three Grand Rapids middle schools lost funding for an after-school program -- one the district said is essential.

Riverside, Burton and Westwood middle schools are without LOOP, an after-school program dedicated to academic, cultural and recreational enrichment, for the 2017-2018 school year.

The LOOP program catered to all 33 Grand Rapids middle and elementary schools for years, but the Michigan Department of Education denied grant money for the cohort made up of Riverside, Burton and Westwood, said John Helmholdt, executive director of communications & external affairs for Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS).

"It's a disappointment," Helmholdt said. "But it's not unheard of for a cohort to not be funded for various reasons. We know the state has really been putting a focus on these limited federal dollars at the elementary, K-8 level."

The state funding comes from the federal government's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which gives grant money for after-school programming.

Helmholdt said the three schools are high-poverty and have a strong need for LOOP.

"Our data is crystal clear," he said. "Students who are involved in after school programs do better academically. They are more likely to stay in school. They're more likely to graduate, and they're less likely to get in trouble between that after-school time between three and six."

GRPS said they will reapply for LOOP at those schools next year. They are also looking into alternative programs for students.

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