September 9, 2020 – Westwood, MA – The Foundation for Westwood Education today announced a special donation cycle to support community needs during the COVID-19 crisis. The first of its kind in the nonprofit’s 29-year history, this special donation cycle will help address key areas like social emotional needs and distance learning capabilities during the pandemic. The funding comes at a time when schools and other community organizations have a dire need for resources, but are already scrambling to close significant budget gaps created by the crisis.
One of the most critical needs that researchers and health experts worldwide have emphasized is the rising rate of anxiety and depression related to the pandemic. Experts also note that this consequence can disproportionately impact children and seniors, driven by factors like fear of the virus, extreme changes in routine, economic pressures and isolation. The Foundation will fund several social and emotional learning programs to address this growing concern for our most vulnerable populations.
“Our Board met and decided to take this step to help our community at a time when the need is immense,” said Courtney Krupinsky, President of the Foundation for Westwood Education. “We’re all navigating through this unprecedented landscape together, changing the way we live, teach, and connect with others. There has never been a more important time for the Foundation to step up to provide new educational resources to engage, educate and protect the wellness of our community.”
In the social emotional development arena, this special donation cycle will fund two Social Emotional Learning (SEL) resources for Westwood Public Schools:
- Second Step – This highly-rated SEL program, which helps teachers and students with emotional management, situational awareness and academic achievement both inside and outside of the classroom, can be used in person or remotely. The Foundation’s support will bring this subscription-based tool to Westwood Middle Schools for three years.
- Responsive Classroom – This is a proven classroom approach that provides student-centered, social and emotional learning methods of teaching and discipline through evidence-based practices. The Foundation’s support will provide Westwood Elementary teachers and students with enhanced access and content – including materials designed especially for remote and hybrid needs.
Beyond the need for social and emotional resources for Westwood students, there is a critical need for new distance learning resources as schools across the state prepare for the uncertainty of the health-related challenges and requirements ahead. With leading health officials recommending that schools be prepared to shift between in person, hybrid and remote learning formats as needed throughout the year, classroom teachers need access to new learning tools that will enable distance learning success and can translate seamlessly between remote and in-person instruction. Addressing this need, The Foundation for Westwood Education will equip all Westwood classrooms with an important new tool:
- Nearpod – This award-winning, interactive dashboard for teachers is an easy-to-use platform filled with engaging content and tools and real-time insights for teachers so they can optimize their approach both online and offline to deliver stronger student outcomes.
“We’ve never been more challenged as educators and leaders,” said Allison Borchers, Assistant Superintendent of Westwood Schools. “Our teachers and staff are rising to the challenge of teaching remotely while continuing to provide emotional support and stability for our children as they navigate a world of uncertainty. We are grateful for the continued support of the Foundation for Westwood Education for enabling us to provide these tools to our teachers so they can continue to succeed in these unprecedented times.”
In addition to its support for schools, the Foundation will provide funding to the Westwood Council on Aging to serve the diverse needs of Westwood citizens who are age 60+. This programming will focus on preventing isolation, combatting anxiety and promoting fun learning opportunities for area residents.
- Book and a Bite –This program will address two of the most pressing needs for seniors during the pandemic – isolation and food insecurity. Through a partnership with the Westwood Public Library, the Book and a Bite program will deliver packages to home-bound, at risk seniors. These deliveries will include farm-fresh produce, one “grab and go” meal and a library book.
- Current Conversations –This moderated series brings seniors together for a 2-hour discussion on current events and issues every other Wednesday. The sessions occur on Zoom and foster a sense of community, while providing an outlet for seniors to share their thoughts and feelings in an unpredictable landscape.
“We can’t underestimate the challenge this virus has created for the seniors among us,” said Lina Arena DeRosa, Director of the Westwood Council on Aging. “Our deepest concern is that our seniors will feel isolated and will not have the support they need to get through this crisis. We are grateful to The Foundation for Westwood Education for helping to bring our residents together through fun, healthy and engaging educational experiences.”
In total, over $32,000 worth of funding will be provided to support the unique educational needs of the Westwood community at this time, touching thousands of residents. In addition to these grants, the Foundation has recently supported a wide range of programs such as farm-to-table intergenerational events, new STEM and Biodiversity tools for classrooms, cultural speakers and events, career immersion experiences for high school seniors, and cutting-edge Sustainability programs. Each January, The Foundation also hosts an annual fundraiser and highly popular Spelling Bee for elementary students (grades 3-5) in town.