WEST Responds to the Coronavirus Pandemic Wrentham Cooperative Bank Donates $5,000 to Support CurriculumNov 27, 2020 09:17AM ● By Chuck Tashjian
This has been a tough year for schools. The shutdown last spring plus the hybrid learning model this fall have upended longstanding academic routines for both teachers and students. But the pandemic has also impacted fundraising for the schools, which enriches so much of the student experience. The Wrentham Elementary School Trust (WEST), however, is committed to its mission of raising private capital to support the Wrentham public schools, especially now as the schools adapt to the new normal. “WEST is still here even though it may look different,” affirmed Katlyn Gallo, the organization’s president. Recently, the Wrentham public schools received a $6,000 grant from WEST to purchase digital licenses through Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for educational resources. These licenses will support curriculum development and provide new content to enhance learning for students in grades K-6, explained Gallo, noting the hybrid learning model presented new challenges and extra work for the school system’s teachers. The grant was made possible thanks to a $5,000 gift from the Wrentham Cooperative Bank, a stalwart supporter of the town’s schools. “WEST is incredibly grateful to have such a strong community supporter in the bank,” noted Gallo. “Their generosity year in and year out has enabled WEST to support our schools where they need it most.” Scott Terrien, President and CEO of the bank, said in an email, “Wrentham Cooperative Bank is proud to be a long-time supporter of WEST. Our teachers always do a fantastic job educating our children and they are being asked to do even more during these challenging times. I continue to be amazed at their creativity and dedication to our children.” WEST typically disperses about $25,000 in grant monies for curriculum enhancements each year. The organization usually holds a “grant night” once or twice a year with teachers presenting their requests before WEST’s board. The pandemic has changed all that, according to Gallo. Now, teachers go directly to the schools’ administrators as needs arise, and the administrators contact the WEST board, which meets at least monthly. Grants are awarded on a rolling basis. Last spring when the schools went remote, WEST-funded emergency grants included online science subscriptions, iPads for the special needs preschool programs, and art kits for students who couldn’t afford art supplies at home. In the past, WEST has funded Google reality goggles for the sixth grade, a coding tutorial for grades three through six, and author and poet visits, among other things. Grants have always been curriculum-based, but this year the organization may also be called upon to use funds to help families struggling with job loss and other financial hardships because of the pandemic, acknowledged Gallo, noting requests would come through the schools. “It may not fit our mission statement, but given the times we are in, if we have the resources to do so we will help out where we can,” she said. Although no big fundraising events are currently planned for this school year, WEST will continue its Shining Stars program. Parents can purchase a “star” to honor a teacher by making a donation to WEST in amounts from $10 and up. In past years, teachers were presented with Shining Star certificates to display in their classrooms. Gallo says this year parents can purchase a star online and include a video or photo thanking the teacher. Gallo, the mother of a preschooler and a six-year-old, says the schools have done an incredible job despite the challenges of teaching during a pandemic. “We at WEST are so appreciative of the Wrentham public schools and how seamlessly they have made the transition to remote and hybrid learning,” she said. “From the administration and teachers to the custodial staff and to the nurses, the amount of work they put in over the summer getting ready for the school year was incredible. They’ve risen to the challenge and surpassed expectations.” WEST, which was founded in 2007, has funded close to $300,000 in educational grants for the Wrentham public schools. To learn more or to make a donation, visit www.wrenthamwest.org.