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Sanibel School PTA, Sanibel School Fund start year at deficit

By THE SANIBEL SCHOOL PTA / SANIBEL SCHOOL FUND - | Aug 21, 2020

Students will return to The Sanibel School on Aug. 31 to kick off the 2020-21 school year. While the islands’ children will get back to the business of learning, their parents are feverishly working on fundraising plans to provide financial support from the community.

The National Blue Ribbon K-8 school is public and operated by the School District of Lee County. But the Sanibel and Captiva communities have been very supportive of the school through the years, providing funding to support a myriad of projects.

When lockdown orders were issued in March, causing the school to shut down during Spring Break, fundraising efforts were all but shut down as well. Now, parent groups are assessing the damage and looking to the community for assistance. They are behind on their fundraising goals and some of the school’s privately-funded projects may be in jeopardy for this school year or next.

“Springtime is primetime for our events, and at those events, we raise a decent amount for the Parent Teacher Association, and the Sanibel School Fund hosts their annual golf tournament,” PTA President Chris Demaras said. “Obviously, our usual ways of fundraising had to change, and we’re developing a plan for what that means for the new school year.”

Donated funds are raised and managed by both the PTA and Sanibel School Fund, a fund of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. The groups then grant the money to school administrators for needs that are above-and-beyond the school’s budget.

“People know we’re a small community-oriented school, and that’s one of the reasons families are attracted to enrolling here. But because of that size, this public school’s budget — which provides a fixed amount per-pupil — is not huge,” Sanibel School Fund President Jeff Muddell said. “That’s why we rely on this generous community. Our administrators do an amazing job with what they are provided. We, as parents and community members, want to see the school even better, and we need additional private funding to make that happen.”

The largest portion of donated funds supports the STEM Program, headed up by teacher Kelly Johnson. New to the school last school year, the program — open to students of all grades — shines a bright light on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Administrators and teachers also use the donations for myriad other purposes: stocking teacher’s classrooms with supplies not in the school’s budget, purchasing educational software licenses and an annual subscription to a nationwide student leadership program, throwing the National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony, and more.

“We have recurring needs, and unexpected ones. As an example, our new principal, Ms. Reid, just told us the kiln used by arts students died over the summer,” Demaras said. “That’s a $3,000 item that just doesn’t appear in the school budget. If we as parents can help find the funds, we can ‘fire up’ that program again.”

“I’m always amazed how generous this community is,” Muddell added. “I know that as we continue to express the needs of our school and stress the importance of educating young students on this island, more and more people will find a way to support what happens inside those school walls.”

To learn more about the giving opportunities at The Sanibel School, contact Jeff Muddell at TheSanibelSchoolFund@gmail.com or Chris Demaras at chris@bodyforcebrands.com.