MOUNT ZION — Selling candy bars, calendars, cheese and cookie dough (among many other items) are time-honored ways to raise extra money for a school, but Mount Zion Grade School staff came up with another idea: a dance-a-thon.
“Each classroom practiced a dance, and they collected pledges, donations for the dance-a-thon, and 100 percent of the donations are going to be used for our school,” said Nicole Tapscott, who teaches second grade.
Parents had been asking if they could just write a check rather than have their children come home with catalogs of things to sell, Tapscott said.
“This year, we wanted to try a fundraiser where parents are able to just make donations,” Tapscott said. “Usually, we earn about $4,000 from our catalog fundraiser, and right now, we're at $13,600.”
That amount not only exceeded the $4,000 from last year, but the $7,000 goal for this year. That doesn't include the extra donations made after the dance-a-thon, when parents and friends could vote for their favorite dance by dropping change in a can.
The gym was standing-room only for the performance, which kicked off with the Mount Zion High School Drumline, which marched through the school with the younger students streaming along behind them. The grade school students sat on the floor while the drumline performed, and the high school students left the gym still playing to thunderous applause.
Schools hold such fundraisers because state and federal dollars only stretch so far, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. At least 31 states provided less funding per student in the 2014 school year than in 2008, the year before the Great Recession took hold. State and local dollars provide the majority of school funding, with federal funds making up an average of less than 10 percent of the total.
And while Illinois recently implemented a new evidence-based funding formula designed to provide more equal resources for school districts in poorer areas, public school funding doesn't cover extras like updated technology, field trips and playground equipment.
School fundraisers can help bridge that gap but, as in Mount Zion, parents would often prefer to avoid having their children sell items, or help with the selling. Schools get to keep only a portion of money raised in traditional catalog fundraisers, while with a project like the dance-a-thon, the school keeps all the money.
Like other schools, Mount Zion plans to use the money for extras, such as classroom supplies, assemblies, playground equipment and field trips.
The kids practiced their dances for two weeks prior to the big day, said Jeret Ethell, a second-grader. Thanks to YouTube and Vevo, plenty of dance-along videos are available, with the dances set to popular songs like “Best Day of My Life,” which Jeret's class danced to.
The one that brought the house down, though, was the Chicken Dance, so much so that audience members and students who were watching did the movements along with the performers.
After the performances were done and the totals announced, the entire school danced to “YMCA” by the Village People, and yes, the second- and third-grade students knew the words and the moves to the 1978 hit.
One of the most enthusiastic dancers was second-grader Kaley Huffman, who swung her ponytail in a circle and danced to “Saved by the Bell” with her class.
Kaley said she practiced the dance at home on her own in addition to the rehearsals at school with her classmates.
PHOTOS: Students raise money for Mt. Zion Grade School through dance-a-thon
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Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter
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