July 23, 2013 Updated: July 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm
A three-year, $2.5 million grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity Educational Partnership will help Academy School District 20 expand its science, technology, engineering and math programs and increase professional development for teachers.
D-20 Superintendent Mark Hatchell said the grant "enhances our efforts in moving all students beyond basic subject area competency into deeper understanding."
This is the third and largest grant the district has received from the defense department in recent years, said Nanette Anderson, D-20 spokeswoman.
The grant is intended to support school-aged children whose families are connected to military organizations - although it will benefit all students.
Anderson said nearly 22 percent of the 24,000 students in the district have family members who either work or are assigned to active duty at Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Falcon Air Force Base.
In recently announcing the recipients of the first round of this year's Educational Partnership Grant Program, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon's goal is to ensure "every military-connected, school-aged child gets a quality education, wherever they are in the world."
According to D-20's application, the funds will enable the district to improve student achievement by integrating STEM principles across all curricular areas, aligning STEM activities with new standards of practice and providing additional teacher training, increasing technology and offering more online and blended learning opportunities through interdisciplinary instruction.
The defense department awarded $20 million to 15 public school programs serving military children in the first cycle of 2013 grants, said Kathleen Facon, who heads the grant program.
A second round totaling another $18 million will be announced in August, she said. Several school districts in the Pikes Peak region also have applied for funding, she said.
"We do a very rigorous grant review," Facon said. "The districts we have already awarded grants to were our highest scoring."
Applications are judged on project design, sustainability, focus, number of military students served and other factors, she said.
In the past, Colorado Springs School District 11, Widefield School District 3, Falcon School District 49 and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 have received money through the program.
In previous years, D-20 was awarded grants of $1 million and $2 million, Anderson said, and used the funds for technology infrastructure, online courses and professional development.