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ASF kicks off annual fund drive

Drive was called off last year
A Bellview Elementary second-grade student uses binoculars that were included in his new Outdoor Adventure Backpack, funded through an Ashland Schools Foundation Impact Grant this spring.(Photo courtesy of Susan Bacon)

The Ashland Schools Foundation kicked off its annual fund drive Saturday, its first since 2019 after last year’s drive was called off to weather COVID-19.

A nonprofit founded in 1989, ASF raises money to support Ashland schools. It has expanded its role and its goals over the years, including a recent addition of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Fund to support initiatives in schools that “encourage understanding and opportunities surrounding these issues,” according to a news release.

The abrupt cancellation of the 2020 fund drive had all the makings of a disaster for the organization’s bank account, especially after the Almeda fire. But according to ASF, it has awarded more than $280,000 in grants to schools and classrooms since last September.

“When everything shut down last year we, like so many others, didn’t know what to expect,” ASF Executive Director Susan Bacon said in a press release. “It quickly became clear that our community, despite all the challenges and uncertainty, still wanted to make local education a priority.”

The foundation has expanded its Classroom Impact Grant program by 150%, an increased focus that has helped Ashland teachers make the most of remote learning. It has also funded more than $100,000 in Education Support Grants for larger items such as technology upgrades and specialists.

ASF is also helping the district cover some of the costs associated with its return to full-day in-person learning, announced last week. ASF has purchased large tents for outdoor classrooms, health equipment and science materials like the outdoor science backpacks that went to Bellview Elementary second-graders and take-home chemistry experiments for Ashland High School students.

“Working in a school district and in a town that cares about their teachers is incredibly powerful,” Helman Elementary teacher Anne Collonge said. “I’m so grateful to work here and to have a foundation, town and school district that loves and supports us as much as we love and support our students. This is a rare place to live.”

During this school year, about 50 Classroom Impact Grants and a dozen Education Support Grants have been spread throughout the district, and ASF also committed more than $50,000 to support school district staff and families who lost their homes to the Almeda fire.

For more information or to make a donation, visit ashlandschoolsfoundation.org.