About the Colony

Get into the giving spirit — follow Atascadero’s lead to help schools

Wyatt Babcock,4, poses for a photo after hanging up his backpack at Santa Margarita Elementary School.
Wyatt Babcock,4, poses for a photo after hanging up his backpack at Santa Margarita Elementary School. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Atascadero has always been a place where the people provide for themselves.

After World War II, volunteers built the stadium at the high school in honor of all those who served in the service. When the local chamber of commerce needed an office of its own, volunteers built one. Needing to raise millions of dollars for a public library, supporters came up with “Dancing With Our Stars.”

And knowing that local teachers routinely spend their own money to provide extras for their students, yet another set of volunteers formed CAPS, which stands for the Committee for Atascadero Public Schools. Most folks I know can’t remember what CAPS stands for, except, “that’s the group the helps the schools.”

Indeed it does.

Last year, CAPS raised $105,000. At this year’s dinner (always held in August) CAPS brought in $89,000. Every dime earned is used to fund those “extras” that teachers want. Nothing for overhead. And all costs are sponsored or donated. Since CAPS formed 11 years ago it has awarded more than $800,000 for the schools.

I like the way CAPS works. It takes into account the number of children in the district, from kindergarten to senior high schoolers, and the money earned, and it comes up with a per-pupil figure. This year it was about $14 per pupil.

Teachers write grants.

Past grants have provided class projectors and cameras, field trips, sewing machines, microscopes, iPads, cordless tools for industrial arts, student planners, art supplies, a trip to the Estrella Warbirds Museum, stand-up desks, dance costumes and even books.

In fact, since 2007 school libraries have been given $17,000 for books. The marching band has received $7,000 towards new uniforms.

Committee members include parents, present and former school teachers, district administrators and more.

“We can always use more help,” says Kathy Peterson, who is now retired after teaching kindergarten in the district for 36 years. She explained that help is needed to read grants, provide the materials asked for by the teachers, putting on the annual dinner and more.

Peterson said the group’s goal is to make life a little easier for the teachers and provide more fun for the students.

More than 200 guests attend each year’s dinner. To supplement the costs of the dinner and other fixed expenses, CAPS offers a variety of “sponsorship opportunities.”

Those sponsorships go to make sure the event results in nothing but all profit for CAPS to be able to “strengthen the educational experience for all of our children,” according to information provided to me by Peterson.

What makes the program so good is that every school in the district benefits, even those tiny schools in Creston and the Carrisa Plains.

You can donate or get more information by writing to CAPS, P.O. Box 730, Atascadero, CA 93423, or www.atascaderocaps.org.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every other week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or lonallan39@gmail.com.