Bexley Education Foundation’s latest grants go long way

ThisWeekNews by Chris Bournea – A total of $154,513 in grants the Bexley Education Foundation has awarded to the Bexley City Schools includes $45,700 in districtwide social-emotional learning initiatives and $70,143 to improve students’ access to technology.

The foundation provided a $115,843 Impact Grant, which included the aforementioned grants, and $38,670 in Classroom Grants. The foundation awards Impact Grants, usually for $100,000 or more, every two to three years to support new priorities district administrators identified, said Pamela Glasgow, the foundation’s executive director. The last Impact Grant was awarded in 2015.

The Impact Grant “is based upon a specific challenge or need,” Glasgow said. “This year, we responded to several of the social-emotional initiatives.”

The Impact Grant will support the district’s purchase of the Panorama platform to assess and monitor students’ social and emotional development. Educators use Panorama to support students’ social-emotional learning, which are skills needed to succeed in school and in life, such as the ability to rebound from failure, manage emotions and build and maintain positive relationships, said Leisan Smith, the district’s director of Student and Community Engagement.

“While we have quite a bit of anecdotal information, we wanted a tool that would help us home in on more data,” Smith said. “This will give us a chance for students to tell us where they think they are in terms of social-emotional learning.”

The platform helps track students’ progress across academics, attendance, behavior, and social-emotional learning, according to panoramaed.com.

The Impact Grant will also fund a partnership between the school district and Grant Us Hope, a nonprofit with the mission of enhancing mental wellness, safety and violence prevention in schools. Through the peer-to-peer program, students will work to emphasize self-care as a tool to prevent suicide and bullying.

“They’ll come in and assess where we are in terms of trauma and safety planning,” Smith said. “We’ll pull in parents and our board (of education) and other community leaders to look at what are we currently doing and where are some gaps to really help and provide a broader range of tools to students.”

To promote science, technology engineering and math skills, the Impact Grant will fund coding and robotics experiences at Cassingham, Maryland and Montrose elementary schools using tablet computers and computer-science programs. The grant will establish a technology-device lending program for middle and high school students who do not have access to technology and the internet outside school.

“We’re trying to address the digital divide,” Glasgow said, referring to the disadvantage some students have in terms of access. “This is one thing we can at least now begin to do.”

The Impact Grant will enable district administrators to attend Harvard’s Project Zero Classroom 2019 training. The professional institute is designed to equip administrators with tools to encourage students at all grade levels in thinking critically and creatively.

“I think it intersects with the social-emotional, critical-thinking and problem-solving initiatives that were spelled out really specifically in the school district’s strategic plan,” Glasgow said.

A $3,500 Classroom Grant will support a visit from award-winning children’s author and illustrator, Jerry Pinkney, in October.

“The Bexley Public Library was looking at bringing him in,” Smith said. “I said, ‘Let’s make it a full collaboration so more students get access to him.’ We’ll be looking at, how may our budding artists be able to speak to him and learn from him.”

Other foundation grants recently awarded include:

* Cassingham library renovation — A $13,000 grant will be used to create flexible learning spaces with moveable/multifunctional wall dividers that are magnetic and use dry-erase markers.

* Risers for jazz band — A $4,652 grant will fund the purchase of portable risers for the Bexley Middle and High School Jazz Bands.

* Virtual reality — A $8,236 grant will fund the purchase of a set of virtual reality headsets for Bexley Middle School social-studies classes to enhance learning experiences through virtual tours, field trips and immersion in historical events.

* Flexible seating for middle school World Language — A $5,458 grant will be used to enhance the learning environments in Bexley Middle School World Language classrooms through more flexible seating options and the addition of sky-light ceiling panels.

* Middle school yoga — A $3,180 grant will be used to pay two teachers certified in youth yoga instruction to continue yoga as a flex-time option for middle school students.

* “Seeds that Feed” repairs — A $617 grant will fund repairs to the Bexley High School “Seeds that Feed” raised-garden beds, maintained by the student Garden Club.