Guest column: Brunswick education foundation’s works continue – Portland Press Herald – pressherald.com

​The school year is about to begin again and teachers are finalizing their activities for the start of the semester. There are a lot of creative projects planned to support students’ needs – especially after the immense challenges of last year. The resiliency of school staff has been astounding as has that of the students.

This year, we are all hopeful as a community that teachers and students will have a chance to dive into some new learning opportunities. The passion and dedication of the teachers and staff in our school district is amazing and we are all looking forward to a successful school year this fall.

Just as the school year came to an end last June, nearly a dozen projects across five of the schools in the Brunswick School District were awarded funding by the Brunswick Community Education Foundation (BCEF) to begin the 2021 school year. BCEF is a local non-profit that supports the Brunswick School District by providing grants to teachers and staff that fall outside the bounds of the school budget. They have been awarding grants since 2015 and have provided over $200,000 for projects across all of Brunswick’s six schools. Teachers and staff from the Brunswick School District can apply for grants at different points in the school year that help augment their students’ learning opportunities in new ways.

From the first year in 2015 when BCEF started by giving 21 grants across all four Brunswick Schools, the capacity of the organization has grown to now be able to award over two dozen grants totalling over $30,000 over the 2020 year. “When the pandemic hit it was clear that there were many more short-term needs from the teachers,” says BCEF President Becky Wilkoff. “In response, we were pleased to be able to shift our model and offer three Emergency Grant opportunities in May 2020, December 2020, and March 2021. The teachers were remarkably energetic and dedicated to finding new ways to connect with their students and BCEF was pleased to help make these projects a reality.”

The projects supported through BCEF’s Emergency Grants included many that provided creative solutions to remote learning. For example, there were take-home science kits that students could work through on their own and then discuss with their teachers. There were virtual author visits through the Harriet Beecher Stowe library. And, there were letter-writing supplies so that teachers could communicate with their students the old fashioned way. 

In order to support teachers heading into the 2021-22 school year, BCEF offered their usual spring grant cycle to teachers in May of 2021. The grants were awarded in June and include projects like purchasing balance bikes for the physical education program and modular furniture for creating unique spaces within a classroom at Kate Furbish and Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary Schools and funding a poetry project at the Brunswick Junior High School. Some grants like the SeaDragons ocean education club that connects Brunswick High School students with those at Kate Furbish, connect students across different grade levels in the district. These are just a handful of the dozen grants that teachers received in June of last year. Many of these will start to take shape this fall. 

These projects provide positive momentum at the start of the school year for teachers, students, parents and the community. Thank you to all who helped make these happen despite the challenging circumstances of the past year. BCEF will continue to offer grant opportunities during the 2021-22 school year to promote more great projects like those awarded in June. If you are interested in learning more about BCEF or making a donation to support grants like these, please visit www.brunswickcef.org