PUSD Education Foundation receives $30,000 Legacy Grant from OneAZ Credit Union

Funding will help district expand multi-sensory rooms for students

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Originally Published: November 30, 2022

Every now and again, children need a time to decompress from the pressures of a traditional classroom environment, according to district leaders.

They may need some quiet, reflective time in a space with calming sounds and lighting, or they might need to refocus their energy by jumping on a trampoline or assembling a puzzle.

In the Prescott Unified School District, the Discovery Gardens pre-school’s main campus at district headquarters in the historic Washington School on East Gurley Street has just such a multisensory room.

A converted kitchen area in the basement is now equipped with an array of interactive activity boards, swings, soft furniture, multicolor lights and soothing sounds where children can go when they need a supervised break. The room was made possible through a $5,700 grant from the Prescott Unified School District Education Foundation.

The success of that program prompted other district schools to consider how they might build similar spaces on their campuses.

Thanks to a $30,000 Legacy Grant donation from One AZ Credit Union Community Foundation, PUSD Education Foundation Executive Director Paul Kirchgraber and district leaders announced this week that Mile High Middle School is to be fully equipped with one of these “state-of-the-art multi-sensory rooms.”

Taylor Hicks Elementary, a K-4 school, and Granite Mountain School for fifth- and sixth-graders, are also both in the process of creating multisensory spaces on their campuses to serve multiple student populations, explained Kirchgraber and District Assistant Superintendent Mardi Read. Across the district, Read said staff have looked at ways to create diversion opportunities for students, but not all now have the space for a true, multi-sensory room such as what is expected to be created through this particular grant.

“We know that for many kids, school can be a very overwhelming place,” Kirchgraber said. “Whether children are dealing with a diagnosed developmental impairment or not, at times, they require a safe place to decompress. Multi-sensory rooms, which shifts their attention and focus while stimulating their senses, have proven to be extremely beneficial to the students as they cope with daily situations that can arise in school.”

At Mile High, Read said there is now a small “motor lab” space, but with this donation staff will be able to equip the space with special lighting, furnishings and activity boards suited, particularly, to its special- needs population. For overstimulated students, Read said the sensory room will allow them to have some needed quiet time; for others it might be where they could work out their extra energy so they could then sit through a regular classroom lesson.

Read envisions the sensory room will be fitted with such things as a small trampoline, light tunnels, a bicycle desk, sanding tables and interactive panels where an individual student, or a small group, could play a game or throw a ball. The rooms, too, would likely have corner spaces with pillow or soft surfaces; the rooms also offer soothing sounds and music, she noted.

All are designed with the goal of helping children assimilate back into their normal daily routine, Read said.

After a tour of the Discovery Gardens multi-sensory room, OneAZ Northern Region President Miguel Maldonado said he was impressed with how the rooms was able to offer children a chance to rewind so they could then return to class ready to resume their regular classroom activities.

Maldonado said he is very pleased his company’s foundation can assist PUSD in offering more of these kinds of spaces to more students.

Like Kirchgraber, Maldonado said he and his team recognize that helping students overcome barriers to learning is an investment in the academic success of the entire educational community. Just to have a safe, supervised place where they can relax, curl up with a book in a cozy nook or possibly jump on a floor trampoline or engage in some stimulating, enrichment activities can prove a true learning gift to any child, Maldonado and district leaders agreed.

OneAZ Community Foundation awards these grants annually across the state, Maldonado said. Since 2016, he said the foundation has awarded over $1 million worth of such grants.

“We are very excited to receive this Legacy Grant award and want to thank the OneAZ Credit Union for its generosity,” Kirchgraber concluded.

Reach Nanci Hutson by email at nhutson@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.