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Austin Ed Fund awards 64 grants worth $310,000

Andrews Elementary was one of the schools that received grants. It used the money to expand its library collection to reflect the student population.

AUSTIN, Texas — Sometimes, school budgets don't fully cover what teachers and staff need in the classroom. Normally this is where PTAs can come in, but for Austin ISD schools, another organization is helping out.

For students inside Andrews Elementary, choosing a book may not be as easy as you might think. For more than 85% of students there, English isn't their first language; however, 75% of the books are in English.

"When they see books that they connect with, they learn better, so that will help them with focusing learning, making connections and building their experience too," said Elizabeth Morales, the school's community school facilitator.

She helped the school start a new project to change that.

"The project is called Discovering Our Voices in Diverse Reads, and we have 87% English learner population, so we need Spanish books. We need books for our Pashto students, for our students who speak Swahili, and our collection is over 40 years old," she said. "So we want to make sure it's inclusive to our whole Andrews school community." 

But for a school with a library budget of around $1,000 ,it's not easy to overcome that. 

"The Austin Ed Fund is AISD's education foundation. We exist to really support our schools throughout our district," explained Michelle Wallis, the executive director of the Ed Fund. 

One of the ways they help is through special grants. This year, they added the AISD Crisis Support Fund, which is hoping to aid in innovation, allowing teachers to create projects that will help students. Through two rounds of funding, they have awarded 64 projects for $310,000.

"This is just a way we can support ideas in the classrooms that teachers have," said Wallis. 

Those ideas are those like updating the library at Andrews. 

"Without this fund, we would not be able to buy books or update our books or even get books that reflect our students and our student population," said Morales. 

It is giving students a better chance to see themselves in what they read.

"It's getting our students to see diverse books and books that fit their interests," Morales said.

Morales also has a project that was awarded to Andrews that helps them create a community closet. This will allow them to keep the students clothed in "weather-appropriate" clothes. This project is currently being built out, but has already been awarded.

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