ICCSD Foundation receives donation to provide critical digital learning tools to K-6 students

HAVlife of Johnson County donated $20,000, which will allow students to access digital tools during their time of online instruction.


Jake Maish

A sign for the Iowa City Community School District is seen outside the district’s administration building on Tuesday, April 28.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

HAVlife of Johnson County recently donated $20,000 to the Iowa City Community School District Foundation, helping students to access digital software and resources while they are online during the pandemic.

Beginning the school year virtually meant that Iowa City students were not able to access the resources in a physical classroom. HAVlife — an organization focused on preventing lost potential among students within athletics, music, and the arts — recognized the district’s need for easy to use and accessible digital resources for all K-6 students.

With the money donated from HAVlife, K-6 students can use Lexia and Dreambox software, which help students learn reading and math, respectively.

Patty Grabinski, a HAVlife board member said that although the organization tends to focus on athletics, arts, and music, it felt it was equally important to give attention to students’ educational needs and potential during this time.

“During COVID-19, we kind of realized we needed to think outside the box a little bit,” Grabinski said.

Grabinski said HAVlife is usually able to acquire funding through various fundraisers. But with COVID-19 forcing the cancellations of many in-person events, she said, this was not a viable option,.

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Despite this, Grabinski said there were many generous donors in the Iowa City community who came forward to support the organization as well as the local students in general.

“We have amazing sponsors and donors in this community,” she said. “People have been extremely generous to us. Even though we did not have a fundraiser this year, so many of our sponsors and donors have continued to help us, so we could not be any more grateful for those people in our community who care so much and really want to reach out and help kids as much as they can.”

Susan Brennan, executive director of ICCSD Foundation, HAVlife has been an ongoing partner to ICCSD for years, as they have donated funding for both the foundation and the district itself for items deemed necessary for students.

Brennan said HAVlife reached out to her in anticipation of the letter she sent out to families about critical needs. The organization asked her what the critical needs were, what the students needed to succeed, and how they could help provide these tools.

Brennan said this past spring, ICCSD was able to provide all K-6 students with the Lexia and Dreambox software. She said that this greatly impacted students and helped them continue to learn while outside of their classrooms.

“Trying to reach our students in a remote learning environment, our districts had piloted these two softwares, Lexia and Dreambox,” the director said. “When [COVID-19] hit, these two tools became our connections to our students.”

She said Lexia and Dreambox are interactive and operate like a video game of sorts — perfect for engaging younger students. When students struggle in a particular area, the program stops them and alerts their instructor where the student is having trouble, so that the instructor can intervene and help create learning tools specific to each student’s individual needs.

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“[This software is] especially important for our kids who have fallen behind,” Brennan said. “Pre-COVID days, 30 percent of the Iowa City school district students were not proficient in our reading and our math – so we knew a 30 percent was struggling — and that was the 30 percent that we really targeted for our Lexia and our Dreambox.”

United Iowa Financial also worked to create an endowment that would help provide funding to ensure each student’s needs were met. Carrie Wagner, chief development officer, said she was involved in this endowment project.

Wagner said her children, a first-grader and fourth-grader, attend an Iowa City elementary school and have been using both Lexia and Dreambox.

“We knew we wanted to focus our charitable giving on the basic needs of students and children in our communities,” she said.

She said she finds Lexia and Dreambox to be extremely important tools and that it has helped her children stay engaged with their schoolwork and learn at their preferred pace.

“Having those resources when school shut down in the spring was nice,” Wagner said. “I tried to keep [my children] on track academically through reading and workbooks and things, but sometimes it’s just difficult to keep them motivated and engaged because they were out of their regular schedule and routine.”