A $3 million grant to expand and upgrade science classrooms at Finley’s River View High School could soon be on its way, but the district needs community support to help seal the deal.
The district recently received word from the state that it is a finalist for one of at least four grants. A final decision is expected in April.
The announcement has led the district to ramp up its efforts to complete a key portion of its application — demonstrating it has financial support from the community of at least $100,000 to complement any grant award.
“We’ve just been hitting the phones and chasing leads,” said Bryan Long, the district’s human resources director.
Thirty-four districts applied for a share of about $12 million through the state’s STEM grants program, created to help districts upgrade or expand their science facilities so students have better learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.
A minimum of four grants will be awarded — two west of the Cascades and two on the east side — though there’s a possibility of more, said Scott Black, program development director in the school facilities department of the state superintendent’s office.
Though the grants will be paid for and administered by the state, Seattle-based nonprofit Washington STEM is reviewing the grant applications and will make funding recommendations.
Finley, which has fewer than 1,000 students total and about 300 in its high school, wants to use the grant to build an additional science lab classroom with the latest safety equipment, such as an eyewash station. River View’s greenhouse would also be renovated, and additional faculty and storage space built.
Currently, the district only has space to teach either chemistry or physics each school year, making it difficult for students wanting to complete both courses before graduation. A dedicated science class for freshman has to be taught in the school’s career and technical education building or a standard classroom, which limits instruction.
New and improved infrastructure would help district students meet science graduation requirements and a focus on STEM it starts pushing with students in elementary school.
“Even if we can provide the curriculum, we can’t provide the facilities to get to that next STEM level,” said Superintendent Lance Hahn.
When it comes to rallying community support, district officials said some pledges have been secured. Oxarc has offered to donate a welding machine worth thousands of dollars and letters have been sent to more than 30 local businesses. The district is also launching a “buy a brick” program where people can donate money in their name or that of a loved one.
Long said the money doesn’t have to be secured before the grants are announced. It also doesn’t have to be cash — in-kind donations of services and materials can also be counted toward the final tally.
But more is needed and district officials hope others in the community will come to its aid as it looks to do more for students.
How to help
Anyone interested in pledging support to the Finley School District in connection to its STEM grant application can call Bryan Long at 509-586-3217.