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After two years of yo-yoing with virtual and in-person events, the foundation is 'excited' to be face to face with the community . 

The Lake Oswego Schools Foundation couldn't be more excited to be back in person this year.

Since 1986, the foundation has worked to ensure all students in Lake Oswego receive a quality education, with the belief that one of the most effective ways to do that is by hiring more teachers. This year, the foundation is gearing up to deliver celebratory events and rebuild relationships with the community as it returns from the past couple of years of distance fundraising.

"I can't tell you how relieved we are to be back in person and just so thankful that we can go forward again. The biggest thing is to be able to be face to face with people and build those relationships and say 'thank you' in person," said executive director Whitney Woolf.

The foundation comprises a leadership team and about 30 board directors. Each director is a parent or community member who has a relation to a school within the district.

This year, in an attempt to rebuild relationships that might have been lost during the pandemic, the board members will stop by each Back to School night and get to know the community — while also explaining how they plan to use their funding this year.

Like prior years, the foundation will use its donations to get a music teacher and reading specialist in each elementary school.

"Reading is really the most fundamental thing that a school can do — it has the most impact on a child, and so we're very proud to be able to offer more reading specialists. Then music … people think, 'You're just playing an instrument, whatever,' when actually it has so much more for brain development, language development — it's so impactful," Woolf said.

According to Edweek, schools that have music programs and specialists have higher graduation rates and attendance than campuses without them. Likewise, schools with literacy specialists see higher results on paper and students who develop a genuine love for reading — which has many benefits, including positive mental health traits.

Further, the foundation will continue its work to add more elective courses — like oceanography or ceramics — into secondary school classrooms this year with their funding.

To spice things up, one of the main events the foundation will host next spring is the first annual gala that celebrates the school district and education. The gala initially was scheduled for early March 2020, but had to be canceled due to the budding COVID-19 pandemic.

The whole community is invited, and Woolf said the event is not a fundraiser but rather a time for everyone to join together and commemorate the school year.

"The gala is just celebrating our community and our schools," Woolf said.

During the pandemic, the foundation had to make various tough choices that caused its operating expenses to be slashed to 4% to stay afloat. Wolfe said operating expenses are typically about 25% of the budget for a healthy nonprofit..

As the foundation starts this new academic year with about 20% less money in its pockets, representatives remain hopeful, as they were still able to donate at a similar level compared to previous years.

"I've been saying this for the last couple of days: I'm not hopeful. I'm more than hopeful, because things are actually going to happen this year," Woolf said. " I'm really excited to be able to celebrate this district and education with everybody in person this year."

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