Shamong schools accept grants for new teacher initiatives

The district prepares to approve its 2021-2022 budget

It’s budget season for local school districts, and while many are grappling with how to handle state aid cuts, the Shamong Township School District is prepared to take on another year.

At a school board meeting on Feb. 16, David McNally, an auditor for the district, told the board it has a “healthy” fund balance going into the 2021-’22 academic year. The district was able to gain more than $1 million in extra revenue in 2020. It will now figure out how to allocate those funds before March 16, when the board will approve a first draft of the budget. After a public hearing on April 27, the board will vote to adopt it in full.

At the recent meeting, the board also accepted three grants for teachers from the Shamong Foundation for Educational Excellence, which helps to fund new educational tools for teachers. The foundation will provide more than $9,000 for Indian Mills Middle School’s (IMMS) Creating Composers program. The district will use the funds to purchase iPads that the middle school music program will use to teach students how to create original songs and sheet music.

“Every student at IMMS will be affected positively by that grant,” said Principal Tim Carroll. “The iPads allow for a much higher level of music composition than the Chromebooks do.”

Another grant for nearly $4,400 will be used to purchase new furniture for Indian Mills Elementary School’s (IMS) media center. The furniture is easily moveable and will allow the school’s librarian to create more collaborative activities for students. Carroll said the furniture will also improve IMS’s makerspace, which hosts a 3-D printer, green screen and other technology that students can use to build and create. 

The final grant, for $1,200, will be used to make an IMMS Spanish teacher’s vision come to life. Jessica Cardella requested the funds to buy books written in Spanish for her Leemos (We Read) program, where students will learn the language by reading popular novels and nonfiction books. 

“It’s something that really helps prepare our Spanish One students for high school,” Carroll explained.

Parents at the board meeting spoke in favor of reopening Shamong schools for five day, in person instruction, something other districts in the region, like Medford and Lenape Regional High Schools, have begun to implement.

Shamong Superintendent Christine Vespe noted that one of the district’s biggest obstacles to a full return is the state’s 6 foot social distancing guideline. 

“We belong in school five days a week full time, that is a no brainer,” Vespe said. “However, we really are held to these mitigation strategies and strategies to try to keep our numbers down.”