Stackpole-Hall Foundation supports remote learning with county-wide grant

Photo submitted - The Challingsworth sisters are shown participating in remote learning. All are students at South St. Marys Street Elementary School. Shown on the left is Kaitlyn, kindergarten, and on the right are Makenzie, first grade, and Chelsey, second grade.
Amy Cherry
Staff Writer

School districts throughout Elk County recently received just over $570,000 in funding from The Stackpole-Hall Foundation in an effort to help offset remote learning costs as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Trustees of the Stackpole-Hall Foundation unanimously approved to support the school districts with the grant, viewing it as emergency relief funding.
“This decision is as per the Foundation’s commitment during the pandemic to support quality of life needs for the residents of Elk County,” said Jennifer Dippold, Stackpole-Hall Foundation executive director.
Out of the $571,338 grant award and in effort to support each school remote learning needs, St. Marys Area School District was awarded $262,020, Ridgway Area School District $173,000, Johnsonburg Area School District $111,000, and Elk County Catholic School System $24,500.
Dippold noted that with ECCSS, families continued to pay tuition through pandemic shut-down and the school system used any remaining stimulus funding to cover safety measures and personal protective equipment within their three school buildings.
“All of the local school districts continue to work together to create a system of educational services for the more than 4,000 students of Elk County,” Dippold said.
In August, Dippold became aware of the challenges the local schools and school districts were facing as a result of COVID-19 and the resulting pandemic. 
After discussions and meetings with area superintendents including Brian Toth from the St. Marys Area School District, Heather Vargus from the Ridgway Area School District, Dennis Crotzer from the Johnsonburg Area School District, and Sam MacDonald, Elk County Catholic School System president; it was evident that all schools were facing their own unique situation, but one similar need with all schools was remote learning, and the unexpected cost associated with remote learning.
As a result of the pandemic, all four schools were forced to upgrade technology and/or hire additional teachers. The Stackpole-Hall Foundation recognized this budget crisis the schools faced would impact each community resident and overall support services for students. Meaning, if schools cannot offset these unexpected budget items, they will have to make difficult decisions for upcoming school budgets. Therefore, the school administrators responded and submitted a grant application to the Foundation seeking grant funding to support each of the school remote learning needs. The Trustees approved the funding requests in November.
“The Foundation values education and makes it a priority,” Dippold noted. “At the end of the day our schools are the core of our community.”
According to the Foundation, the school district plans to utilize the funding in a variety of ways including: for JASD, funding 39 students in Ram Academy at $2,500 each and one student in a cyber charter school at a rate of $13,500; for RASD, purchasing computer programs and security software for $113,134, computer hardware for $57,075 and home internet services for qualifying students at a cost of $3,609; for SMASD, VLN Partners remote learning platform licenses for $69,520 and additional remote learning teachers at a cost of $192,500; for ECCSS, the purchase of 100 Chromebooks with licenses at a cost of $24,500.