NEWARK, NJ — The start of the 2020-21 school year has been anything but easy and now a grant-matching program is hoping to make it a little easier for teachers in Newark. 

The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, which was formed to help alleviate economic fallout stemming from COVID-19, is giving up to $250,0000 in matching funds to teacher projects in New Jersey's underserved school districts, including three teachers in the Brick City. The grants are provided through DonorsChoose, an online platform that allows educators to raise funds for their classrooms. 

More than 170 of the states 607 school districts will start the year remotely, including Newark, which will assess its ability to allow students back to in-person learning in November. 

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At Roseville Charter Elementary School, teacher Ashley Gray is looking to arm her second-graders with school supplies from a distance. Without access to materials at school, many low-income students are left without the necessary learning tools they need to succeed during Newark's all-remote start to the year. 

"They are small people with big hearts, curious minds, and a hunger for knowledge," Gray said. "My second graders just need people to believe in them and some extra resources, especially during these challenging times."

The grant-matching program is an extension of NJPRF's overall initiative to support schools as they work to educate students during the pandemic. The fund recently sent 1,200 Wi-Fi hotspots to the Trenton school district and hopes to target other areas where it can help close the digital divide in education. 

In Newark, teachers still need $623 to make their remote learning classrooms the best experience possible for their students. Other items teachers are requesting include materials for when schools return to in-person learning, headphones for special needs students and more. See how you can help here. 

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 W-Fi hotspots to the Trenton school district and is working to identify opportunities to close the digital divide in other school districts.

"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.”

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