GENEVA – Harrison Street Elementary School recently had an all-school assembly where presenters brought in an eight-foot alligator.
“And the kids absolutely loved it,” Harrison Principal Brenna Westerhoff said.
The assembly was courtesy of Harrison’s PTO, which raised $26,550 for the school to use in the 2019-20 school year.
In addition to paying for assemblies – including an alligator – the money went to buy art supplies, field trips, outdoor education for fifth graders and to give each teacher $100 for supplies for their classrooms.
“They are the most amazing people,” Westerhoff said. “They fundraise and raise all of this money so every time we have an assembly or a field trip or roller skating, we don’t have to ask individual parents for funding. They really focus their energy in making sure that the students don’t have to pay extra for things.”
Because the donation was more than $500, the Geneva District 304 School Board took formal action at its Aug. 26 meeting to accept the PTO’s gift.
Jessica Jecmen co-president of the Harrison Street PTO, said they host several fundraisers during the school year.
“We did fun events for kids, things that were family friendly, for parents,” Jecmen said. “This is about average for us. We have continued to give at this level. ... We do not send things home for the kids to sell.”
Events include a fall fun fair which is like a carnival, a trivia night for parent teams, a silent auction in the spring, she said.
“And we do smaller things through the year, like selling spirit wear and other things,” Jecmen said. “When parents register for school, there is also an option to make a donation toward the PTO directly, or for room parties. We give them options. We usually raise a fourth of our money that way.”
She said parents can donate $5 or $50; it’s up to them to decide.
The items donated and their approximate cost were:
• Art portfolios, $700, which are white bound books given to every incoming kindergarten student for them to do art through their elementary school years.
• Art supplies, $550, for the art room teacher for what she might need – such as paper, frames, clay or paint.
• Two to three school assemblies per year, $1,500 – chosen by the school.
• Birthday books for students, $1,000. When a student has a birthday, younger students get books, older students get a coupon to trade in for something at the school store.
• Field trips, $7,500 – so when parents get permission slips, all they have to do is give permission. The PTO pays for all the buses and museum entry, for two field trips per class per school year.
• Outdoor education, $6,100, for fifth graders who do a special unit on outdoor education where they leave on Monday and return on Wednesday. The student stay in little cabins at a camp and do a variety of outdoor activities, such as horseback riding and canoeing.
• Roller skates and safety equipment, $3,300, to cover the cost of skates, helmets and other safety equipment. There is not one per student, but enough for every student in physical education.
• Sport’s day supplies, $1,600, also known as field day where students play games outdoors. The PTO organizes the event, parents staff it and they pay for all the games, water and popsicles.
• Teacher start-up supplies, $3,700, where each teacher gets about $100 for classroom supplies.
• Young explorers supplies, $600, for a STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program two to three times a year. Parent volunteers conduct experiments.
“We are busy,” Jecmen said. “We love to support the faculty as much as we can.”