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School grants used for supplies, scholarships

Published: Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

MORRIS – School supplies, literacy kits and wireless routers are just a few of the new devices being used at Grundy County school districts.

The purchases were made possible by $7,000 in grant money from the Community Foundation of Grundy County.

“We obviously like to help out the schools as much as we can because that’s where our future is,” Devan Gagliardo, community foundation program director, said.

Last November, the foundation decided to help area schools given the recent cuts to state funding and overall budget reductions, Gagliardo said.

“Several of our grant committee members are involved with schools,” Gagliardo said. “They have a passion for our local schools.”

Each of the county’s 12 school districts could apply for no more than $600 in funds. Gagliardo said superintendents were asked to send a letter detailing how the grants would be spent.

“I put it out to my teachers,” said Cindy Christensen, superintendent of South Wilmington District 74. “I just asked them, ‘What are some things you would like in your classrooms that we haven’t had money in the budget for?’ ”

Gagliardo said the requests varied greatly. Some districts needed new devices or classroom supplies. Others used the money to fund new programs. Minooka High School District 111 will buy school supplies for homeless students.

“We were definitely happy to see each district tailor the grant to their needs,” Gagliardo said. “Each school district has a unique student population that faces different challenges.”

Braceville School District 75 and Gardner-South Wilmington High School District 73 will be using the grant to create a scholarship for low-income students so they can afford the fees required to participate in extracurricular activities.

“Every year we have a group of students who opt out of these activities because of their family’s financial situation,” said Michael Perrott, superintendent of both districts. “This money provides us a little bit of a cushion to keep all of our students involved.”

Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201 is using the grant to fund the district’s outreach events for parents.

The community workshops teach parents about a variety of topics, including how to save for a child’s college education, how to watch for signs of drug use and bullying and how to understand the school’s portion of a property tax bill.

“We’ve had those offerings but we noticed that we weren’t getting much participation,” said Al Gegenheimer, superintendent of District 201. “With this grant we’re increasing support for that program. It’s already increased our parent participation.”

Several of the school districts, including Coal City Community Unit School District 1 and South Wilmington District 74, are buying curriculums and other materials needed to better align their classrooms with Common Core standards.

Morris Community High School District 101 is buying new supplies for its chemistry classrooms, Nettle Creek District 24C will buy books for early education reading and writing workshops and Morris Elementary School District 54 is purchasing books for its Once Upon A Time program.

Gagliardo said the foundation was pleased to see the funds used in ways that would directly impact students.

“We are always looking for ways to enrich our classrooms with the limited resources we have,” Christensen said. “We were just ecstatic to receive this grant. It was really wonderful.”

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