FORT HALL – Blackfoot School Board met at Fort Hall Elementary on Thursday evening and were met with warming welcomes from the staff and students in attendance. The meeting kicked off with students of Fort Hall Elementary speaking to the board about the events going on at the school, and the progress they have made this year.

Osei Burnside demonstrated to the board the progress boards that are set up for the students and was proud to show that he has made it into the 50 percentile, and has successfully made progress in his education. Kathy Malm, Principal of Fort Hall Elementary, explained that the students enjoy seeing the growth, and are always giving each other supportive messages and a "you can do it!"

This set the tone of the meeting, showing the great things going on at the school, but there was to be a twist in the excitement. Malm had her student co-vice president present to the board about a project that the students have been working on. The project involves the students collecting donations and canned food to present to the Fort Hall Food Pantry to help those in need. Lenise Ish, the Co-VP, explained that the students are collecting these donations and will continue through the school year, and the winning class will be rewarded with a pizza party. Members of the board commented on all the progress being made at Fort Hall as well as the philanthropic activities the students are taking part in, expressing that they are incredibly proud of the students and faculty.

Shortly after the students presented to the board, Wes Jensen and Mrs. Kniffin from Mountain View Middle School brought updates about the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) that Blackfoot School District will be participating in starting next school year. The GEAR UP program focuses on students in the seventh and eighth grades, and follows them through graduation of high school, and even into college.

This program will follow the graduating classes of 2024 and 2025, presenting special funding for the schools to focus on creating and crafting students education programs. The GEAR UP program supports the same students for seven years, making it easier to identify programs that work better than others.

The grant received for GEAR UP will total $24.5 million over the seven-year cycle, with a great incentive at the end. If the student goes on to college in Idaho, they will receive a grant with a minimum amount of $690 and a maximum of $2500. This grant will continue through all four years of college, and will even be available to those who serve a mission or in the military, for the remainder of the four years after their graduation date.

The funds for the program will be used for additional education, such as summer programs, tutoring sessions, and intervention sessions. Any student that will be attending Mountain View Middle School next year will be those in the program. 

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