LA CROSSE Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) – Schools around La Crosse are getting their projects funded through the first of two rounds of grants distributed this school year. 21 different projects around the La Crosse school district will be coming to fruition, thanks to the La Crosse Public Education Foundation. The nonprofit distributed nearly 50,000 dollars in Gold Star Grants Tuesday, rewarding unique initiatives.

LPEF Grants Committee Chair Amanda Westphal said, “We see a vast variety of different projects. We encourage any new creative and innovative ideas, we really support grants that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

The largest grant was given to a project at North Woods International. P.E. teacher Joshua Hein plans to use the 7,000 dollar award to complete a vision he created with students.

“Last year during the pandemic, we did some P.E. classes in the classroom, we weren’t able to use the gym, and one of the days we ended a little early and just started dreaming up how to do a playground restoration, what that might look like,” said Hein.

The grant money will help build a walking path loop behind the school, the first step towards an outdoor classroom. Fourth-grader Oliver Strassman is helping to see the plan through.

“It’s very exciting to know that I’m going to have a walking path when I’m in fifth grade, and that I’m going to be able to help out on this project, maybe on the weekends, when I’m in sixth grade and seventh grade,” said Strassman.

Grants committee chair Amanda Westphal is happy to provide funding for student-led projects.

“When we read through our grant applications, there are a lot of really great, creative, and innovative projects out there, so to be able to witness their excitement after they are awarded the grant is just really special,” said Westphal. The second round of grants will be distributed in the spring. Applications are due by February 28th. Staff at Lincoln Middle School, Summit Environmental, Spence Elementary, and Logan High School were among the other grant recipients this morning.