“Toolkits, Books, and Backpacks Project”
The Toolkits, Books, and Backpacks Project was first initiated by MCPSRA in 2003 at the request of then MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast to help economically disadvantaged elementary school children who attend the Title I Extended Learning Opportunities Summer Adventures in Learning (ELO SAIL) Program at approximately 25 school sites each summer. The Project has grown in size and scope over the years from one that benefited some 800 students the first year to one that touched the lives of over 1,600 children during the summer of 2016. Each year the number of toolkits, books, and backpacks we are asked to provide goes up as the national economy remains recessed or stagnant, and there are more and more families in our county experiencing economic hardships. This project has achieved local, state, and national recognition and many awards including a national one from NRTA/AARP entitled With Our Youth! Excellence Award.
Lidded plastic box Toolkits containing a carefully selected and generous variety of school supplies are assembled and distributed to all Title I summer school kindergartners for use at home to support their learning at school. The number of kits needed each year has escalated from 800 the first year to nearly 1360 this summer. Since the project began approximately 16,000 toolkits have been assembled and distributed. The cost per toolkit is approximately $14 to $15. Once the kits are assembled and distributed to each school site, in-service training sessions for parents are offered by Title I staff to help parents learn how to best use with their children the items and lesson plans provided in the toolkits.
Mainly new and some gently used children’s Books were purchased and/or collected and distributed to children in Grades I through 5 to add to or begin a home library in years past. Enough funds were raised in 2013 to purchase every Title I ELO SAIL student in third and fourth grade a new paperback book that summer, some 1,900 books. If sufficient funds are raised, new books will be purchased each summer for children in as many grade levels as possible. We have not been able to do so for the past three years. During the last thirteen years approximately 8,600 new books and thousands of used books have been distributed to Title I summer school children. We would like to continue this component of our project when adequate funds are raised to enable us to do so.
In the past, Backpacks of school supplies and books have been assembled and given to each homeless child enrolled in the Title I summer school programs. This component of the MCPSRA special project was added nine years ago at the request of Title I coordinators when homeless children from non-Title I schools were invited to attend the ELO SAIL Program. More than 240 backpacks of school supplies have been provided by MCPSRA for these needy children since then. We have not been able to supply them the past three summers. Title I summer school coordinators have indicated that the need is still crucial and hopes this component of our project will be reinstated in the near future.
Joan Donovan and Trish Bendler. MCPSRA Special Projects Committee Co-Chairs