The $100,000 check will be in the mail in a week or so, but Otis A. Mason Elementary staff have already spent the money a couple times over in their dreams.
Some of the ideas are an “Ultimate Summer Camp Experience,” offering hands-on learning projects that students and their parents will do together, and overhauling the school’s computer lab, Principal Kimberly Dixon said of a grant from Target stores the St. Augustine school will soon receive.
Some of the money, Dixon said, will be used for improvements in honor of Larry Leonard, the school’s longtime maintenance coordinator, who died in a hunting accident a few days before classes resumed this year.
Otis A. Mason is among 48 schools and two school districts nationwide receiving one of the grants, which are part of Target’s $5 million donation to kindergarten through 12th grade schools in 31 states. Three other Florida elementary schools were also selected.
All the recipients are Title I schools, meaning they serve a large percentage of students from low-income families. Each school’s needs were also among the factors considered in awarding the grant, Target spokeswoman Jill Hornbacher said.
With about 600 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, Otis A. Mason has a state performance grade of “A.” About half its students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The school has about 70 teachers and staff.
Target received about 7,000 nominations nationwide for the grants. Viewers of the Ellen DeGeneres Show were invited to submit the name of a school in need along with a compelling story explaining why their school deserved the grant, Hornbacher said.
Rebekah Barnes, who teaches second grade at the school, wrote the essay that helped win the grant. A teacher for three years, Barnes wrote about how the school and district had excelled despite state funding cuts and the sluggish economy.
“We’ve made it through hard times … overcome limited resources and our kids are making the grade,” Barnes said of her essay, which highlighted both the school’s and school district’s “A” grade.
The Ultimate Summer Camp Experience, she said, will involve field trips and hands-on learning to allow students to experience what they’re learning about.
“The academic focus will combine with experiences in the community,” she said. “We want people to understand how learning and experience go hand-in-hand.”