Cowlitz foundation grant will bring equity to La Center school technology


A $90,000 grant through an organization of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe will provide laptops and monitors to teachers in the La Center School District.

Late last month LCSD announced it had received the grant through the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation Clark County Fund. The fund is an extension of the tribe and has representation from the tribe, Clark County government and nonprofits. This year the district announced it received the grant for the first time, which will bring in more technology to help teachers both in and outside the classroom.

The need for technology improvements in the district became clear after the construction and opening of the district’s middle school this year. The new school features a number of technology improvements, so upgrades are needed at the elementary and high schools, the district’s Director of Teaching and Learning Michelle O’Neil said. 

Since the La Center School Board approved a local levy for the ballot which had the same rate as the current one on the books, the district needed to find another source of funds for the upgrades. That’s when the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation came in, which the district identified as a good partner to fund those improvements, O’Neil said.

The district has identified a number of priorities for the grant money. The top priority is mobile laptops for teachers to help students around the classroom, O’Neil said. The laptops will also come in handy if remote learning is required, and they will also aid professional development.

“That means when they’re coming to trainings, they have that laptop, they can better access technology right in the moment,” O’Neil said. 

The grant will also fund computer monitors in classrooms, allowing for easier instruction.

Although it hasn’t been approved by the school board yet, O’Neil said the district has also requested microphone and speaker systems for the classroom to help students and teachers hear each other. Rising costs of those systems may prove to be cost-prohibitive, however.

O’Neil said the district’s technology funds are limited. The improvements at the middle school were funded through a voter-approved bond, while the other schools have to rely on what comes from the state and what is locally approved through regular levies.

“So this will definitely bring us up to the place where we can have all teachers functioning at an equitable place, as far as the technology in their room, to serve students,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil said an organization can apply for one grant per calendar year and can request funding for up to three years. She thanked the foundation for approving the district’s grant, which is part of millions the foundation gives every year for similar initiatives, a release from the district stated.

“They have been very generous and are definitely focused on students and educating our community,” O’Neil said. “We are so grateful to be able to take advantage of this and bring our technology up to par.”

O’Neil said the grant will allow for greater equity for teachers and students across the district’s schools.

“We want for all of our students, regardless of the circumstances or their ability, to have access to instruction,” O’Neil said. “In order to make that happen, we want to make sure that our educators have the technology that they need.”