Academic departments receive funding for extra equipment
Blair's science department applied for approximately 10 miniature grants, which provide money to each department through applications that teachers fill out individually, from Blair's Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). The department will use the mini-grants to pay for equipment and other specialty items not covered in the normal school budget.According to PTSA grants co-chair Judith Arbacher, mini-grants are given out to help departments and clubs pay for resources that the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) budget does not buy. "The grants are allocated by the PTSA in the annual budget," she said. Currently the budget is around $10,000.
Science departments usually apply for the largest amount of grants, according to Arbacher. "The science department does receive the bulk of the funding because of their use of consumables," Arbacher said. "These are the kinds of things MCPS isn't funding."
The grants are normally given out around October, but this year the entire schedule was pushed farther down the year to January, according to Arbacher. The PTSA wanted departments and especially clubs to have more time to evaluate what amount of money they need and where they want to delegate the money. In addition, the PTSA can better track leftover funds from the previous school year, according to Arbacher.
Because of the adjustment in the schedule, the science department fielded fewer applications this year, according to Science resource teacher Summer Roark. "This year it was only 10 because the time change affected how many we could do," she said. Usually, the department will apply for near 20 mini-grants.
The majority of the mini-grant money comes from membership donations, according to Arbacher. At the bottom of a membership application for the PTSA a person can specify what they want their money to directly affect. "A lot of people at Blair are very generous," Arbacher said.
According to Arbacher, all mini-grant applications are reviewed by the co-chairs prior to the meeting and then put into a spreadsheet with basic information about each application. The spreadsheets are then passed around during the committee and members rank each application. "Five hundred dollars is the maximum amount we will give and it has to be for a project or a resource that will benefit the entire school or hundreds of students," Arbacher said.
The PTSA will decide who receives grants during an annual open committee in the near future that will be open to students, parents and teachers.
Science teacher Leslie Blaha said if the applications had come in November, she would have been focusing more on first semester. However, because the application changed to January, she is focused on second semester needs. Blaha noted that she wants to use the funds for equipment for specific labs as well as field trips. "I don't want students to not go because they couldn't pay $8," she said.
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