Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation helps fund a variety of education grants
By Jeff Harrison
After a one-year hiatus, a popular tradition returned to local schools.
The Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation last Wednesday surprised teachers with more than $60,000 in funding through the Big Idea Grants program.
The Foundation awarded 68 grants at 18 schools in the district. Teachers received grants for a variety of subjects including art, music, Native American heritage, special education and science, technology, engineering and math or STEM and others.
Members of the Foundation board and school district personnel traveled from school to school and presented the grants to each teacher.
It was the first time the Foundation awarded grants since 2019.
The Foundation modified its giving last year to help with needs related to the pandemic, said director Lindse Barks. They gave more than $104,000 throughout the year. That included $30,000 for new electronic devices, masks, sanitizer, and cleaning products. They also gave each school site $1,000 with the principal deciding how it was spent. Barks said they also received grants from the St. Matthew’s United Methodist pumpkin patch, and another from the Junior Service League of Midwest City to help stock district food pantries and fund crisis go bags for every school site counselor.
“With the uncertainty we faced in August of 2020, we thought that being able to assist when needed was a better way to help the district,” Barks said.
Barks said they were pleased to be back on schedule this year with the grant program.
Christina Combs, a teacher at Schwartz Elementary, received a grant for a green screen that will be used for a student news broadcast. She said students in fifth grade will be producing, recording, and writing a news broadcast that will be shared on Canvas and broadcast each morning throughout the entire school.
“Right now, it will start with fifth graders, and we’ll work our way down to little tykes,” she said. “They will have to apply for the role and fill out an application like a real job.”
Also at Schwartz, teacher Tissa King was awarded a grant to build an outdoor classroom.
“We came up with the idea to have an outdoor space for you,” King told her students during the grant presentation. “We’ll have benches, we’ll have a mobile white board to teach from and it won’t just be for third grade. Any teacher can sign up and use it.”
Erica Wiszneauckas-Reeves, a teacher at Highland Park Elementary, received a grant to buy cooking ingredients for her Life Skills class for students with severe and profound special needs.
“This will help buy ingredients to cook and teach kids how to make sandwiches or make cookies or things like that,” she said. “The kids in here need to learn life skills like how to cook. A lot of time I’m paying for them out of my own pocket.”
Some of the larger grants included updated learning materials for German class at Midwest City Middle School, cameras for the yearbook class at Soldier Creek Elementary, a cozy reading area at Carl Albert Middle School, a reading-themed family fun night at Epperly Heights Elementary, and audio and recording equipment at Midwest City High School.
“One aspect of our grant program that I love is the wide range of ideas,” Barks said. “We see grants for drones, STEM, math, reading, outdoor classrooms, musical instruments, art, foreign language, and TV production. That is just naming a few of the amazing ideas our teachers have come up with.”