BEMIDJI -- Educators in Bemidji may be able to draw from a new source of funding for projects they want to undertake in the classroom.
That’s because several members of the Bemidji School Board are working to develop a foundation that would contribute to local education on top of the taxpayer funding that is already in place. Those working on the project hope to roll it out in time for the upcoming all school reunion.
One of the board members working on the project, Jeff Haack, gave a brief presentation about the project during a recent school board meeting. The name of the project is the Bemidji 31 Foundation Fund.
“We’ve got a lot of good people doing a lot of good work with booster clubs and PTOs and things of that nature, but there's no real all-encompassing group whose purpose is to raise funds and resources for these classroom projects,” Haack said during a recent interview.
A number of other school districts have similar foundations of their own. Haack said that is one of the reasons they began looking into the possibility for Bemidji.
Although the Bemidji foundation is just getting off the ground, a similar foundation in Fergus Falls is able to award roughly $60,000 in grants a year. While that number is still small in comparison to the Bemidji School District’s annual budget of more than $60 million, it would allow teachers access to funding for special projects or needs that aren't funded through the main budget.
For example, Haack said they could put the funding toward things such as technology in the classrooms or field trips, among other possibilities.
The Northwest Minnesota Foundation, located in Bemidji, will administer the district's Foundation. Haack said The Northwest Minnesota Foundation also administers some other funding sources for the school district, such as scholarship funds and athletic funds. Haack said that within that portfolio administered by the Northwest Minnesota Foundation for the District, there was another fund that essentially had gone dormant at some point along the way.
Haack explained the money in that dormant fund will be used to help jump start the new Foundation, though he declined to reveal how much funding was currently in the account.
Nonetheless, with the help of that pre-existing fund, the Foundation already has enough resources it started distributing applications so the schools can request funding. The window for educators to submit grant applications closed Friday. On Thursday, Haack said there were at least six applications that were submitted to the Foundation.
Haack said there were a number of alumni who wanted to donate to the District during the last all school reunion, but didn’t necessarily have a good way in which to do so. Because of that, the school board members working on the Foundation hope to have it up and running in time for the coming all school reunion.
“The goal is to implement this relatively modest amount of grant funding this spring so we can demonstrate what can be done with these funds prior to the all school reunion that’s coming up this summer,” Haack said. “We see that as a can’t-miss-opportunity to interface with alumni.”