Year 1 Grant Funds Explanation
We were ecstatic when we learned that we had been awarded partial funds for the first year of the grant. However, this announcement came with a caveat -- we were deep in COVID territory and USBE only had enough funds to award nine districts with partial funding of what they asked for the first year. There was no funding from the legislature, and the future of receiving additional grant funds was unknown. We had to view our grant plans through a completely different lens – as a one-time funding opportunity. We had to take our four-year plan and determine where the priorities were and how to best spend the generous funds we had been allocated, albeit a much smaller amount than the million dollars we had allocated in our proposed four-year plan. This was definitely not a negative factor, but it did require us to rethink how we could best utilize the money in our district.
We met virtually with our Planning Grant Team (district staff and teachers) and determined that we would focus on increasing Computer Science opportunities in grades 7-12, our secondary schools. We wanted to give attention to having our secondary students gain effective coding skills in Python so they would be ready for the workforce or university. This meant that we needed to offer more Python coding classes to our secondary school students. To accomplish this, we secured the TechSmart curriculum for two years since additional funds were questionable.
We also needed to build teacher capacity and have endorsed staff to teach Computer Science in our middle schools and high schools. We worked with Utah State University’s College of Education and Department of Computer Science as well as staff from USBE to develop an affordable pathway for teachers to earn their CS endorsements.
The following year, the CS grant was reopened and more districts applied, and received first year grant funds. Because we had been awarded partial funding the previous year, we received the remaining amount from our first-year proposal. Thus, our "first year" grant funds were quite unique since they were spread over two years instead of one. And because money was uncertain with the legislature, there was no promise that future money would be available for additional years. We had to treat this second amount as one-time funding as well. Since we used the bulk of our first-year money to ensure our secondary schools had viable curriculum for several years, we did not have enough remaining funds to partner with TechSmart for the elementary curriculum. In the long run, not having funds to utilize TechSmart in the elementary schools may have been a blessing in disguise.
In January of 2022, we met with staff from CodeHS and discussed the possibilities of partnering with them for our elementary curriculum. We explained that we wanted coding lessons to be taught to all of our elementary students. Because our elementary students would be learning coding for 40-60 minutes each week, we needed a total of 36 lessons. CodeHS has been wanting to delve into the elementary arena for some time. They were willing to modify and expand their existing curriculum to accommodate our request. They were excited to use Cache County School District as a pilot district for their new coding curriculum. And, because their costs were lower than TechSmart, we had enough funds to pay CodeHS for this pilot project for next year. We also were able to supplement other grant money to help some elementary schools procure iPads for the CodeHS K-2 curriculum. Working with CodeHS was definitely a big change from our original proposal. And we have faith that this change will benefit our district’s Computer Science program as a whole.