The Waterloo Community School District has been awarded a federal grant to help improve student achievement at a local elementary learning center.

The $1.5 million dollar School Improvement Grant (SIG) will be used to boost grades at the Dr. Walter Cunningham School For Excellence. The facility was eligible to get the money because of its classification as a “persistently low-achieving” school.

“We are so encouraged by the grant award,” said Dr. Jane Lindaman, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, who takes over as the district’s superintendent on July 1, 2014. “Waterloo has experienced success with using School Improvement Grant money to improve student learning and teacher capacity. We are confident this award will benefit Cunningham students, families and staff.”

The district is receiving nearly half of the just over $3 million awarded to Iowa from the United States Department of Education in February.

The grant means that Cunningham will have a longer academic year than the district’s other schools, which begin classes on August 19th. Cunningham teachers will report for work on August 5th. Classes at Cunningham begin on August 7th.

The school’s 2014-15 academic calendar will include seven additional days of student instruction and seven more days of professional development for staff.

Cunningham is the fourth Waterloo school to receive a SIG grant since 2010, joining George Washington Carver Academy and Lincoln and Irving Elementary Schools.

SIG money is given to state education agencies and districts then compete to secure the funding based on a sub-grant submission. The grants help schools that have a history of not meeting academic achievement goals under the No Child Left Behind Act.