ELIZABETH, NJ - The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, a non-profit organization created to address the health and economic crisis in New Jersey caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is providing $250,000 in matching grants to teacher projects in underprivileged school districts in New Jersey through DonorsChoose, an online platform that gives teachers an opportunity to raise funds for their classroom.  Three of the projects are in the Elizabeth Public Schools.

"Teachers know best what their students need to continue learning during this unprecedented time”, said First Lady Tammy Murphy, the founding chair of the NJPRF.  “We are thrilled to help support teachers at schools with 90 percent or more students receiving free or reduced lunch thus enabling our most vulnerable students to have access to the best educational materials possible.”

“We are happy to provide matching grants to give teachers the resources they need to connect with and continue teaching their students,” said NJPRF CEO Josh Weinreich.

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The matching grant is part of an overall effort by the NJPRF to help schools in New Jersey continue to educate students during the pandemic. The fund recently donated 1,200 wi-fi hotspots to the Trenton school district and is working to identify opportunities to close the digital divide in other school districts.

The projects funded through DonorsChoose range in cost from as little as $154 for a gift card to as much as $4,700 for an Apple Macbook Pro. Many of the teachers’ proposals are for technology to help students to learn remotely, though teachers are also asking for supplies that can be used in the classroom. Of the state’s 607 school districts, more than half are hybrid and 172 districts will start the year with fully remote learning.

Mrs. Vargas-Uriol, a first grade teacher at John Marshall Elementary School 20, has requested funding to make e-learning more easy and fun.  She wrote, "This summer I was able to experience our first Remote Learning Summer Program experience in our district. Based on this experience, I was able to realize the challenges and obstacles many of our students face while learning from home. I realized how noise-blocking headphones can be useful and the huge difference they can make. It will help them focus a little better, no matter where they're located or who they are with. I also realized how difficult it may be to see through a camera, so dry erase boards and markers can make a huge difference. Flash cards are always useful for building vocabulary. The rest are writing materials that they will need to work independently."  Donations to the project can be made here.

Ms. Lidia who works at The Leaguers Head Start on East Broad Street, is seeking donations to improve the library area and purchase additional books.  She wrote, "Our classroom library is many of our students' first exposure to books. Therefore it is vital for us to create an inviting and diverse library area.We chose a variety of books for all the students to experience different stories, thoughts and ideas. The library area allows the students to create a love for reading."  Donations to the project can be made here.

Mrs. Flynn, a fifth grade teacher from Jerome Dunn Academy 9, is seeking donations to provide each student in her class with provide each student with a plastic pencil box containing a pencil, sharpener, eraser, highlighter, scissors, glue stick, and ear buds.  She wrote, "Each and every day in my classroom is an exciting challenge. Each student brings their own unique qualities to create the most amazing adventure. From the first day of school, I have emphasized that we are on this journey together. By working together, we can all achieve the highest levels of success."  Donations to the project can be made here.

Laura Overdeck, the founder and president of Bedtime Math and a member of the NJPRF board, said the NJPRF grant helps ensure that teachers have the tools they need to educate students during the pandemic.

“The diversity of the projects being funded really illustrates the upside of working with DonorsChoose to support our teachers, rather than trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution for classrooms across the state,” Overdeck said.

For all the teachers’ projects eligible for the NJPRF matching grant on Donors Choose, click here.

TAPinto is a media sponsor of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.