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Park City Education Foundation awards $460,000 to classroom projects

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Park City School District students learn computer coding and computer science thanks to grants from the PCEF. This year's grants expand learning into drone pilot skills and other fields.

Park City teachers have nearly half a million dollars to fund 45 different programs on their campuses, thanks to the Park City Education Foundation.

The 2022-23 school year begins August 17 with $460,000 in extra funding to support teachers in their classrooms. Last year the Park City Education Foundation awarded $350,000 to classroom teachers.

Kara Cody, the foundation’s director of programs, said it's the most significant annual increase ever and thanked the community for its generosity. She said the foundation grants committee was overwhelmed with the innovation by teachers in the school district, especially after a couple of disruptive and difficult years managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You know, as long as the need is there, then, you know, the foundation is here to respond to those needs," Cody said. So, it was really exciting to see teachers, you know, just thinking creatively, having innovative ideas, and, you know, really taking the time to complete an application because it, you know, takes some time to do. So, we were just excited to see that, you know, they were in a position where, where they were asking."

Among the programs funded is the Coalition for Safe and Inclusive Schools training, which received $25,000 to use district-wide. Another $45,000 will fund the district’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Leadership training.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers received money to start an aviation pathway program in the high school for students to explore careers in aviation as airplane pilots or drone pilots.

Park City High School English as a Second Language Teacher Melanie Moffat said there is big demand for drone pilot skills and with this new aviation training program, kids can graduate from high school with job-ready skills.

Moffat said, “Any kid can take a class in programming drones and a pilot program. Kids can start getting their pilot's license.”

At Ecker Hill Middle School, Cody said a seventh-grade rocket program will help students learn physics using project-based, hands-on learning.
    
"It's helped kids really understand, you know, physics," Cody said. "Basically, you know, Newton's first and second laws. And of course, kids will, you know, learn about the concepts and then get to put those concepts in action."

For nearly 35 years, PCEF has worked to supplement classroom programs, with some becoming permanent fixtures in the Park City School District curriculum.

The gifted and talented program, PACE (Program for Academic Challenge and Enrichment), is one initiative where the ed foundation grants teacher salaries. Cody said the teachers provide enrichment for all students, not just those enrolled in PACE.

Computer Science and elementary school coding programs began through the ed foundation's grants years ago. Cody said it's great to see the evolution of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs as they are provided as part of the school district budget and no longer need PCEF funding.

"In the past few years, the ed foundation has helped support some fun extras---some of the robots that are needed with some of the technical supplies, as well as helping with some professional development for those teachers," Cody said. "And oh my gosh, that's a huge, huge, huge success for Park City School District. It is that they were awarded a grant from the state of Utah for computer science and coding."

Park City High School teachers received grants for an array of projects and programs, including a new Electric Vehicle summer program which exposes students to engineering and auto mechanics while building an electric car. Moffat said the program will launch next summer.

“So where can these kids go and have a career, and will they like it and have these experiences? And a lot of the kids go into auto mechanics, and they need to have knowledge of how an electric car works," Moffat said. "And it comes with a whole program and then they build an electric car that is road ready.”

High school students will also have an expanded Drama Department Fall Musical, a composer in residence and an expanded debate program.

For more information, visit pcef4kids.org.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.