Fundraisers target school technology, equipment

— Travis Walsh, 13, pulls out a flyer from his large paper envelope worn ragged from use.

The brightly colored page shows Walsh, a Craig Middle School student, what awaits him if he sells enough items in the school fundraiser.

Initially, he set his sights on winning an iPhone, which would have required him to sell 175 items from the catalogue of magazine subscriptions he takes to local businesses.

But when he found out his parents' phone plan wouldn't cover the phone, he settled for an iPod instead, a prize that requires 50 fewer sales than his original goal.

The hardest part: "Getting out in the public and speaking to everybody," he said.

Although selling items was difficult at first, he's not a new hand at this job.

He participated in fundraisers for Boy Scouts and raised money for Relay for Life last year.

This time around, though, he's raising money for equipment he one day could use in school.

Walsh is raising funds for his school. CMS, in turn, will use the money to purchase technology upgrades not funded through the Moffat County School District's budget.

Those purchases could include a SMART board, or an interactive white board, and additional projectors, CMS Principal Bill Toovey said.

The school's media and technology specialists help determine what new equipment the school needs. And, in each case, devices are "an enhancement to instruction," Toovey said.

The school district's $29.5 million bond issue voters passed in November 2007 included $1.4 million set aside for district technology upgrades, which entails upgrading school computers.

Still, Toovey said, deciding whether to raise funds for additional technology upgrades is a year-to-year decision based on the school's needs, Toovey said, adding that he didn't know whether the school would have to continue sponsoring student fundraisers in the future.

It's not just students who help raise funds for local schools. Parents pitch in, too.

The Parent Accountability Committee for Sunset Elementary School hosts an annual fundraiser to bring in additional dollars to the school.

Sunset Elementary Principal Zack Allen said he's seen Front Range schools conduct more, smaller fundraisers throughout the year. But, in his experience, hosting one large fundraiser once a year is more effective.

"Our one fundraiser we do : by far exceeds the amount that we would ever get by continual bake sales," he said.

This year's fundraiser was organized by the school's PAC, but students sold the goods, which included gift wrap, magazines and chocolate.

In the past, Sunset has used fundraiser dollars for a variety of equipment, from playground equipment to electronic piano keyboards for the school's music program. This year, the school purchased five SMART boards for its classrooms using fundraiser dollars.

Allen said he has seen the sums garnered through fundraisers decline gradually.

The school used to bring in about $19,000 a year. This year, however, the school raised a little more than $16,000, about half of which will come back to the school.

In either case, money raised in Sunset's fundraisers doesn't significantly offset the school's expense budget, which is projected to total $1,690,451 for the 2009 fiscal year, according to school district records.

Although Allen couldn't estimate how much of the school's revenue was made up of fundraiser proceeds, he said the amount was "very negligible."

Allen said he uses the fundraisers to reinforce PAWS, the school's behavior rubric. The acronym stands for practice respect, act with kindness, work together and stay safe.

When fundraising time comes around, obeying PAWS rules includes respecting potential customers' rights to decline a purchase, focusing on a school-wide goal instead of competing against other students and staying safe while selling in the community.

Other schools are enlisting parent and student help.

East Elementary School plans to conduct a PAC fundraiser this year, selling candles. In the past, the funds also have been used to purchase SMART boards and playground equipment as at Sunset, according to the school.

At press time, Ridgeview Elementary and Craig Intermediate schools do not have plans to hold a PAC fundraiser this year.

Do students benefit from participating in school fundraisers?

Toovey thinks they do.

He has no qualms about accepting student help with school fundraisers because, ultimately, the funds will purchase materials they could see in their classroom.

"We look at it as enhancements for the classroom, for instruction," he said. "That would be the payback, if you want to look at it like that."

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