Community schools receive Kahn Academy grants

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SANDPOINT — Several Lake Pend Oreille School District schools are receiving a much-needed economic boost thanks to the Kahn Academy.

The Albertson Foundation teamed up with the nonprofit education organization, considered one of the global leaders in online education, to award $1.5 million in total grants across 47 Idaho schools and 10,500 students. Three of those schools include Forrest M. Bird Charter School, Washington Elementary and Hope Elementary, bringing almost $150,000 into the school district.

According to LPOSD Superintendent Shawn Woodward, that money couldn’t have come at a better time. With a tight budget and sacrifices coming down the line even if the school levy passes on March 12, the $47,590 awarded to Hope, $49,840 awarded to Washington Elementary and $48,674.80 awarded to Forrest M. Bird Charter School will go a long way in bringing new technological assets and teacher training into the district.

“As we move into the future, having adequate technology will help immensely in meeting the new common core state standards,” Woodward said.

Hope Elementary, for example, the grant will put 80 iPads into the school’s control, allowing for a nearly one-to-one ratio of electronic devices to students.

Those iPads can access online learning tools and run apps that make the learning process more efficient, effective and fun for young students. In addition to the devices, teacher will receive training to learn strategies for implementing the new devices in the classroom and parsing every last byte of educational value out of them.

The grants were made possible after Kahn Academy founder Sal Kahn visited Idaho as part of a series of workshops hosted by the Albertson Foundation. The workshops proved so successful that organization officials agreed to partner up in launching the pilot project across the state. Northwest Nazarene University is also supporting the project through its Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, which develops new approaches to learning by blending proven teaching strategies with technological innovation.

Authorities across all organizations will be keeping a close eye on the pilot project to observe its effectiveness on student performance. For that matter, so will the administrators of the Lake Pend Oreille School District. According to Woodward, if the approach is successful, district officials will want to pursue it more uniformly across its schools.

“If we see that this is making a difference, we’ll push to win more of these types of grants in the future,” he said.

Woodward gives all the credit for the grant money to the staff members at each school.

“I’ve very proud of the initiative of the staff to apply for these grants,” he said. “Their willingness to seek out revenue to offset these cutbacks is just fantastic.”

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