ROGERS CITY - To buy classroom sound systems, Rogers City Area Schools is seeking votes to win a $50,000 grant from a cleaning products company.
After seeing how her classroom's sound system helped students hear her every word, kindergarten teacher Sarah Simmons is convinced they're an invaluable teaching aid, she said. Originally obtained to help a student with hearing loss, the sound system had some unexpected benefits in the classroom. Now the school is one of thousands vying for the Clorox Company's Power a Bright Future grant.
"(It) helps children with speech and hearing issues, and it also helps all students, and I couldn't imagine myself without it," she said. "It's almost as important as pencils and papers in the classroom, in my eyes."
Over the next 33 days, anyone 13 and older can vote online to push RCAS to the top of its category, according to a release from Clorox. Voters of all ages can text message by sending the code 2024pbf to 95248.
Grant requests fall into one of three categories, with Rogers City in "Explore," according to the program website. The school could get $50,000 if it gets the most votes overall, and $25,000 if it gets the most votes for the category. Additionally, a Clorox judging panel will pick three more schools, one from each category, as $25,000 Judge's Choice grant winners.
As of Thursday afternoon, Rogers City's grant request was ranked 61st out of 1,595 nominees in its category, according to the school's page on www.PowerABrightFuture.com.
The district is looking to purchase portable sound systems with wireless microphones teachers wear on a neck strap, secretary Tammy Budnick said. They cost about $874 per unit, and administrators are hoping to put them in classrooms throughout the district. The Rogers City Optimist Club recently donated one, and Budnick and Simmons have applied for other grants as well.
Budnick cited studies showing how much - or little - students hear in the typical classroom. Due to factors like immature ear structures, ear infections and normal classroom noise, about 30 percent of elementary students have trouble hearing, she said.
The district got its first sound system about two years ago with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Budick said. While the original intent was to help a student with hearing loss, the system ended up benefiting the entire classroom.
One unexpected perk was an uptick in classroom discussion, Budnick said.
"Students like to participate," she said. "They want to hold the microphone and talk. They like to hear themselves. Where you might have a student that doesn't want to speak up and answer, they want to speak."
Student behavioral issues also are less of a problem with the sound system, Simmons said.
"Children are more intuned and attentive when I'm using it," she said. "As soon as I turn it on and start talking in the morning, the children stop, they freeze."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.