Ballroom dancing, science, more funded by LWSF grants

Sixth-graders at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School are learning to dance the salsa, waltz and merengue, all thanks to a $800 grant from the Lake Washington Schools Foundation.

Sixth-graders at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School are learning to dance the salsa, waltz and merengue, all thanks to a $800 grant from the Lake Washington Schools Foundation.

The course — “May I have this Dance? Ballroom dancing for sixth-graders” — is something that Music Specialist Janet Warren says she wouldn’t have been able to include in her curriculum for the year without the grant funding.

“The grant just made a huge difference,” Warren said. “These kids likely would not go out and say, ‘Mom or dad, I want to take a salsa lesson.’”

The schools foundation — which will hold its yearly fundraising luncheon on April 30 at the Juanita High School Field House in Kirkland — distributes not only enrichment grants like this one, but also grants for new teachers, access grants to help pay fees for classes, sports, arts or music for students with financial hardships and more. The grants are described in detail on the foundation’s Web site,

The schools foundation started about three years ago, said Executive Director Tracy Hoien, to help fill funding gaps and provide money for programs that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

“We get about $1,000 less per pupil than neighboring school districts,” Hoien said. “We identify needs and make sure that kids have the resources they need to reach their potential.”

The past two years, the luncheon has raised more than $100,000; this year’s goal is $150,000, she said. While some individual schools are able to raise that much during one night at an auction event, this fundraiser brings together a cross-section of not only parents and educators but mayors, city council and school board members, business people and others. Organizers hope that 600 people will attend the luncheon.

Speakers will include students from the high school, junior high and elementary school levels talking about how programs funded by the foundation have affected them. In one example Hoien gave, a high school student who attended a business symposium came home and told her mom that she had decided she wanted to go into a career of material sciences.

As for the sixth-graders at McAuliffe Elementary, they took a little while to warm up to the idea of dancing with partners, but are enjoying it for the most part and concentrate intently on their footwork, Warren said. The program was offered last year for the first time, paid for out of Warren’s program budget, but for the 2007-2008 school year she wouldn’t have been able to do it without the extra money.

The two groups of sixth-graders are taking four, one-hour sessions with instructor Andrea LaVare-Sandoval. In addition to learning the dance steps, the students are studying the cultures in which the dance styles originated. Other key skills Warren mentioned include developing precision of movement and etiquette.

“The kids surprisingly are liking it,” she said. “I’ve heard kids go, ‘Oh, that was fun!’”

For more information about the “Legacy for Learning” lunch or to find out whether there’s space available, contact or 425-702-3414. Or, to make a donation, visit the Web site at or e-mail or send donations to the foundation at P.O. Box 83, Redmond, WA 98073. The luncheon is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 30 at the Juanita High School Field House, 10601 N.E. 132nd in Kirkland.

Wendy Giroux can be reached at or 391-0363, ext. 5050.

Types of grants offered

Here’s a look at the grant programs the foundation offers:

•New teacher grants: About 90 teachers with one year of teaching experience or less are hired every year by the Lake Washington School District. Research shows that teachers spend more than $400 yearly on classroom supplies such as classroom books, reference materials, art supplies, bookshelves, posters and other materials to make an engaging classroom. New teacher grants provide $200 to each new hire in the LWSD with less than one-year of experience.

•Classroom and school enrichment grants: Education funding from Washington state covers the basics — reading, writing and math — and not much else. Thus, not all teachers have the financial backing to pursue innovative teaching techniques, curriculums or activities that enhance the current curriculum beyond what is available for students through the district. Classroom and school enrichment grants make funds available to all schools in the district for creative projects that enhance curriculum. The foundation awards up to $1,500 for elementary and up to $3,000 for junior high and high schools for projects that engage students.

• Junior high science enrichment grants: Foundation officials say it is vital for students to have access to strong, varied science opportunities at all grade levels that apply their skills and knowledge and experiential learning methodologies that spark interest and passion in a broad range of science-related activities.

• Access fund: Each high school is provided financial resources to pay academic class fees, athletic or art fees for students who might not otherwise be able to participate. The fund is announced at the time of class registration so that students can choose courses without worrying about whether they can pay the fees. School counselors are responsible for the administration of the program and providing the necessary data to evaluate the program’s impact on increasing access to all courses.