Diocese grants to fund technology, repairs at St. Mary’s schools

WESTFIELD — St. Mary’s elementary and high schools will receive funding from the Future of Hope Campaign for the 2021-22 school year, to improve building safety and growth of the schools.

The Diocese of Springfield recently announced that it would give $511,000 in Foundation Grants to Catholic schools in Western Massachusetts this year, funded by interest on the $11 million raised in the 1999 Future of Hope Campaign. The funds are allocated among the schools largely based on need.

St. Mary’s High School, which saw a 32 percent increase in enrollment, is receiving $142,500. St. Mary’s Parish School, which serves pre-kindergarten through grade eight, will receive $8,000 from the Foundation Grant for capital improvements and technology upgrades. Kathleen Harrington, Annual Catholic Appeal manager for the diocese, oversees the grant requests from schools.

Harrington said that the funds can be used on “anything that has to do with building safety,” including upgrades to security systems or measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“Schools are still remediating their buildings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so the related safety and security requests remain a priority. The foundation grants can help with those costs,” said Harrington.

In the case of the elementary school, the funds may also be used on tuition assistance. Harrington said that they may also use it to re-floor the cafeteria in the building or replace rusty sprinklers. Because of the pandemic-related need for remote learning capabilities, St. Mary’s struck a deal with a company to rent Chromebooks and other educational technology for students. She said renting the laptops is a “much better deal” than purchasing them, because if they get broken, which they may be prone to do in the hands of the younger students, they can be easily replaced.

Harrington said that the Foundation Grant money was originally raised in 1999, but a handful of benefactors had set up a years-long pledge of donations. It was not clear if those donations continued more than a few years after the original campaign.

Last year, the diocese announced that it would set aside $3 million from its education endowment to serve as a dedicated endowment for St. Mary’s High School. The $142,500 grant represents this year’s interest on that amount. Harrington said that the diocese gave special consideration to St. Mary’s High School to support the school’s active efforts to grow, after struggles in recent years to increase enrollment.

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