By Karen B Hunter Nov 20, 2020 Falmouth Enterprise The Falmouth Education Foundation announced last week that it has launched an Access Grants program to support teachers using new COVID-based learning models. The new grant pathway, available for the 2020-21 school year only, supports needs that have emerged from the COVID-based learning model in terms of supplies, equipment and training that enhance instruction and promote equity. Grants will be awarded in amounts from $301 to $2,500. The Falmouth Education Foundation, which raises money to give to teachers for innovative projects or unanticipated needs, has been giving teacher grants since 2006, former president of the board of directors Ellen L. Barol said. Since its inception, more than $1 million in grant money has been awarded. “Grants always originate with teacher ideas. We encourage teachers to come up with ideas. We’re here in the service of educators,” she said. “As we look at teachers, we ask, ‘What can we do?’ ‘How can we help?’” At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in April the FEF donated $125,000 to Falmouth schools for the purchase of Chromebooks for students in kindergarten to 2nd grade, in addition to the teacher grants awarded for this school year. The Chromebooks, which had been lent to students in grades 3 to 12, allowed the younger students to participate in morning meetings and in classroom activities and interactions. Money for this donation came from a contingency fund built over the years for an emergency. “This is precisely the unforeseeable emergency we had been saving for,” Ms. Barol said at the time. “As we worked with Falmouth teachers at the end of the last school year and the beginning of this one, we have been so impressed with educators’ care for their students, and how they have adopted new approaches to teaching while making the safety of their students a priority,” president Alan Jacobs said. “It is a really, really, challenging time with lots of unmet needs in the schools,” he said. “Even before school started this fall, there were inquiries from teachers about grants.” What teachers needed this year, however, did not fall into either of the two FEF grant pathways: the Teacher Opportunity Grants, with a limit of $300, used to fill an immediate unanticipated need; or the larger yearly grants given for innovative projects. “We came up with the idea to break out of the norm and find a middle position for this year only so that teachers could quickly get the things they need right now,” Mr. Jacobs said. “These are short-term grants for this school year only in response to the need that has arisen from this year’s learning models, and they must be used this year, he said. “We have made the application process as frictionless as possible.” “In this crazy time during COVID, educators have had to think responsively,” Ms. Barol said. “As a local nonprofit organization, we wanted to think responsively too, which brought about the new access grants.” Within the first week of the program’s inception, FEF has awarded four Access grants to Falmouth teachers, Mr. Jacobs said. Two grants were awarded to the Lawrence School art department for individual art supplies for students, who can no longer share supplies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One grant was awarded to the Falmouth High School graphics department for supplies for students, for the same reason. The fourth grant was awarded for the purchase of a scanner at the Lawrence School, to help with teaching students who are learning remotely. “We are getting more applications every day,“ Mr. Jacobs said, as the program enters its second week. “I want to stress how appreciative we are of the hard work our educators are doing in this community,” he said. “We firmly believe that strong schools are essential to a strong community.” “We are doing everything we can to encourage teachers to be innovative, and we’re trying to find ways to meet their needs,” he said. Due to the pandemic, the Falmouth Education Foundation will not hold its annual gala fundraising event, which usually brings in some $70,000. “We are hoping to bring in a lot of money in the annual appeal, and we will be inventive about other possibilities,” Ms. Barol said.