Local schools to bolster programs, add new tech with grants from College Park City Council

The College Park City Council granted $8,000 to three of the city's schools at its meeting on Feb. 25, 2020 in Davis Hall, College Park, MD. (Suze Creedon/The Diamondback)

With new funding from the College Park City Council, local schools are looking to bolster the resources and learning experiences they offer to students.

Back in November, the council decided to award a total of $40,000 in grants to nine public schools located in and around College Park. During last week’s city council meeting, representatives from Paint Branch Elementary School, Hollywood Elementary School and Greenbelt Middle School all received checks for $8,000.

Tricia Hairston, Paint Branch Elementary’s principal, thanked the council as she accepted the award Tuesday night — presented to her on an oversized check. She said the school will use the funding to add a software component to its Chinese immersion program, allowing students to engage with technology to practice writing, reading and speaking skills.

With the software, language learners will also be able to log on at home, allowing the educational experience to continue beyond the classroom, according to the school’s grant proposal.

“We’re not only trying to increase our academics, we’re trying to change mindsets,” Hairston said. “[We’re trying to] make our school the best experience that our students can ever have.”

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According to city documents, Paint Branch will also use money from the grant to purchase books, online reading resources and other materials for its after-school English program.

Hollywood Elementary School plans to use its $8,000 to purchase new Chromebooks for its kindergarten and first grade students, and buy a new e-learning program for the school that will provide instruction in reading, math and writing through interactive and animated lessons, stories and games.

Jillian Speigle, the assistant principal at Hollywood Elementary, said that the grant will allow each student to work on their own laptop during school hours.

“We’re so grateful and we’re excited to finally be caught up in the technology world with our students,” Speigle said.

Finally, Greenbelt Middle School’s principal, Daria Valentine, said the school will use the new funding to support its English as a second language programming. Last year, she said the middle school “exited” 11 students from its ESOL program — five more students than the year before.

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With the grant from the city, Valentine said, the school will be able to provide additional and necessary resources for the “growing ESOL population” in the city.

“We’re hoping this year, we’re able to continue that work and provide that additional layer of support for our students,” Valentine said. “I want to really say thank you for allowing us to do that.”

After each of the schools received their checks, David Toledo, who is co-chair of the Education Advisory Committee for the city, reiterated to the council the importance of supporting local schools in the area.

“Being able to give back to them, and to see all the different grants that are going out to our community — and actually giving back to the residents of College Park — is such a great thing to see,” Toledo said.

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