Grants and mini-grants awarded by the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation are continuing to pay dividends for our students this year, many years after they were approved.
This school year, thanks to our donors, the Foundation will provide our schools with approximately $900,000. That includes nearly $500,000 raised over the summer through One East, more than $330,000 in program support from the endowment, and tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships and professional development for our teachers.
What’s not included in that total is any money for new classroom grants or mini-grants this year. When the pandemic hit, and our district realized the enormity of the budget challenges the shutdown would cause, the Foundation Board of Directors decided to direct all of the funds provided to the district toward program support, helping save vital school programs that otherwise would have been in danger of being cut.
While that choice was necessary to protect our district from financial disaster, it meant that there wouldn’t be any money to fund new grants for the 2020-21 school year. In a normal year, students, teachers, and administrators can apply for Foundation grants in the fall and spring. Typically, in recent years, more than $180,000 in grants and mini-grants have been approved by the board over the course of the two cycles. “This year, our board wisely decided to use all that money to save programs,” says Foundation Executive Director Amy Stuursma.
Fortunately, there are plenty of Foundation grants that are still making a powerful positive difference in the lives of our students. In our elementary schools, Foundation grants have revitalized the Learning Commons and created robust classroom libraries. At the middle school, the Innovation Lab continues to provide leading-edge opportunities to our students thanks to a grant approved more than five years ago. And high school students still benefit from classroom furniture, technology, and new programs that were provided by Foundation grants.
“The pandemic has shown how forward-thinking some of our past grant requestswere,” Stuursma says. “As our schools have had to adapt the way children learn, they’ve been using Chromebooks and iPads the Foundation provided years before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19. Teachers are using outdoor classroom materials and virtual reality goggles in new, innovative ways. All of that was made possible by our donors, who continue to value public education and support our students and our schools.”