WENATCHEE — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $340,000 to two local charitable groups to improve the reading and achievement levels of low-income school students in North Central Washington.
The Community Foundation of North Central Washington and Chelan-Douglas United Way announced Wednesday that they’ll use part of the money to put Intermountain AmeriCorps volunteers to work in 15 low-income schools around the region to boost the number of students reading at grade level to 90 percent.
The grant will also kick start the Community Foundation’s “Classrooms Can!” — an ongoing effort to provide $1,000 grants to 50 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers who propose projects in math, science, technology, arts education, literacy or obesity prevention.
“If kids aren’t reading by third grade, statistics show that they are four times more likely to drop out of high school,” Community Foundation spokeswoman Jennifer Dolge said this morning. “What we’re trying to do is turn that around.”
Of the 35 elementary schools in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties, 29 have more than 50 percent of their students on the free and reduced lunch program and 25 schools have fewer than 70 percent of their students reading at grade level, Dolge said.
The Community Foundation will send requests for proposals to the region’s low-income schools and will place one AmeriCorps volunteer in each of 15 schools considered to have the greatest need, Dolge said.
AmeriCorps is similar to the U.S. Peace Corps, but its volunteers remain here in the U.S.
Classrooms Can! grants are available to teachers at all schools in the three-county region, Dolge said.
Teachers must propose a project that “will excite engage students, especially the hard-to-reach learner. The Community Foundation will assemble a community committee to decide who gets a grant.
Grant applications will be available on the foundation website Feb. 1 and are due back by April 8.
Awards will be made at the end of the school year. Both programs will begin this fall.
Christine Pratt: 665-1173