AISD celebrates $4 million in federal educational funds to boost outdoor learning, college prep

Wednesday, March 22, 2023 by Nina Hernandez

The Austin Independent School District is celebrating $4 million in federal appropriations that will expand outdoor learning and college prep for students.

The district commemorated the funding at a Tuesday press conference held at St. Elmo Elementary School in South Austin, alongside U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who helped secure the money as a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. He said the funding is about remedying systemic inequities that have an impact on student health.

Half of the $4 million will go to the Equitable Access to Outdoor Spaces project, a program that enables students and teachers to utilize outdoor spaces in learning. St. Elmo Elementary and 35 other high-need Austin schools will receive new outdoor classrooms equipped with shade, ground cover, seating and outdoor learning exhibits.

“Access to nature and outdoor play enhances the mental and physical health of children,” Doggett said, noting that 55 percent of low-income AISD students do not meet physical fitness standards for their age, in comparison with 33 percent of those who are not from low-income families. “I want to enable all students to access outdoor areas that are beneficial, safe, healthy and importantly fun.”

Another $1.86 million in funding will go toward the AISD College and Career Preparation pilot program. It’s an initiative to offer student support and increase awareness of post-secondary education opportunities.

Students in multiple grade levels across the district, including fifth graders at St. Elmo, will receive the following: additional academic advising, financial support for those from low-income households, summer and transition support for up to 500 students, family outreach and engagement events, college fairs, and college visits for approximately 44,000 students.

“Both of these are about widening access to resources that enrich students’ well-being and making sure that children who attend schools in neighborhoods composed mostly of economically disadvantaged families get the same opportunities that I want for my own grandchildren, who currently attend four different AISD schools,” Doggett said. “Cultivating a love of nature and outdoor activities, and cultivating a love of learning and a confidence in pursuing higher education.”

Additionally, the funds will support industry visits for 1,000 students and launch a paid internship program for students.

“The foundation of Austin’s future is in opportunity for students like those here today,” said Doggett. “You are the leaders of tomorrow our inventors, our teachers, mechanics, our health care professionals, entrepreneurs, and elected officials. Let’s ensure you become aware of all the opportunities that our community has to offer and that you study hard and are equipped for success in pursuing your dreams.”

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis thanked Doggett for his efforts and said the funds are particularly important in a “state that simply refuses to fund public education in a significant way.”

“What Congressman Doggett did was go and find $4 million,” Zarifis said. “To bring money home for our kids and our teachers and school workers.”

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

You’re a community leader

And we’re honored you look to us for serious, in-depth news. You know a strong community needs local and dedicated watchdog reporting. We’re here for you and that won’t change. Now will you take the powerful next step and support our nonprofit news organization?

This article First appeared in austinmonitor

Follow by Email