Grant funds instruments, learning tools at MLES

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

MT LAUREL — More than $19,000 in grant money was used to purchase teaching tools and classroom supplies at Mt Laurel Elementary School, including keyboards and headphones for the school’s music program.

Approximately $1,000 of the funding went toward the purchase of 14 keyboards and 14 headsets that will be used to teach piano labs. A small amount from the school’s general music account was used to make up the difference.

The grants were made possible by a 1-percent sales tax increase approved by the city of Chelsea in August 2019. The ordinance, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 2019, meant an estimated $1.5 million per year would go toward programs at the city’s five schools, including MLES.

Any teacher at any of the five schools may apply for the funding.

“I feel that instrument learning is a very important part of music and of education for all students,” said Haley Houston, K-5 music teacher at MLES. “It helps them learn to read music, and I hope to create an interest in some of them to want to explore music outside of our classroom.”

The new instruments are just one example of how the grant money is being used to enhance students’ education. Houston said every student at MLES will get to use the equipment.

“I told my students that there’s a scientific fact that students who can read music and play instruments are more well-rounded and do better in school,” said Houston, who teaches ukulele, recorder, percussion and keyboard instruments. “Keyboard instruments are a vital part of music, and I wanted to expose my students to that as well as the other instruments.”

Other parts of the grant funded new Chromebooks, social/emotional learning tools, library media, computer coding supplies, sensory boxes and more.

Houston, along with Principal Celita Deem and Assistant Principal Tina Neighbors, thanked the city of Chelsea and Mayor Tony Picklesimer for the grant money.

“He (Picklesimer) has really made us feel part of the Chelsea community, and we are. We feed into those schools. We try to support Chelsea businesses as well,” said Deem. “It has been a true blessing.”

The grant money is required to correlate to student instruction, growth and classroom-related needs. The $19,000 was just the first round of grant money.

“We’re just very thankful for the mayor and the city for the work they’re putting into helping our schools,” Neighbors said.