Back-to-school shopping looks a little different this year for Washtenaw County. Instead of asking for tissues and backpacks, Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) is asking the community to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers and 46,000 students as districts plan to return to school in some capacity this August.
WISD is hosting a Safe Schools Washtenaw drive to collect funds and PPE items, such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and disposable gloves. Those funds and items will then be equitably distributed among schools to help them follow new state COVID-19 guidelines upon reopening.
Donations can be made with a contactless drop-off from July 27-31 at WISD’s office at 1819 S. Wagner Rd. in Ann Arbor. Online donations can be made anytime on WISD's website or by purchasing items on WISD's Amazon Wishlist.
Ashley Kryscynski, public relations representative for WISD, says teachers and parents are concerned about safety if schools resume in-person learning.
"It's incredibly difficult to get the supplies needed," Kryscynski says. "We want to mirror what was happening at hospitals and in health care in the beginning of the pandemic, where everyone was rallying behind them. We now need to rally behind our teachers and students."
To kick off the drive, WISD was awarded a $100,000 grant and 10,000 face shields by Toyota Motor North America Research and Development.
Praveena Ramaswami, community relations representative for Toyota, says the face shields were built by Toyota employees when non-essential businesses were closed.
"Toyota has a presence here in Washtenaw County, and therefore a common interest in helping keep our community safe," Ramaswami says.
WISD hopes to raise an additional $400,000 through community funding for a total of $500,000. The total raised will be used to purchase additional safety items for all nine Washtenaw County school districts and their 108 schools.
The $500,000 still might not be enough to provide schools equipment for the entire year. According to Kryscynski, one medium-sized district in Washtenaw County needs 100,000 masks and 6,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for the year.
"We need supplies to meet the needs of our children," Kryscynski says. "There's an incredible inequity to materials and funds and as a county, we're able to access things for our smaller districts that have a lot of low-income students and families. We can leverage more as we buy and gather in bulk."
For more information on what and where to donate, visit WISD's website. Questions about donations can be directed to Sarah Hierman at email@example.com or (734) 994-8100 ext. 1274.
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Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of WISD.