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The Columbus School District Endowment Board’s fundraising drive to support unique, outside-the-box enrichment activities for students is once again off and running, but this year, it’s on a slightly different track.

“We’re heading in a new direction, sending out letters to everyone in the district and making a direct appeal for support,” said Peter Kaland, the board’s president.

Funds that are raised will go toward grants that the district’s teachers can apply for, to pay for enrichment activities that go above and beyond what they would normally be able to offer their kids.

“We want to encourage teachers to be innovative when they come up with ideas for grants that they want to apply for,” said School District Endowment board member Liz O’Donnell.

This will be the third year that the School District Endowment has offered the grants, which generally range from $500 to $1,000. The board tries to offer grants that will fund activities in all of the district’s buildings, at a variety of grade levels; but the number of grants that can be given out depends on how much money is raised.

For the past two years, the School District Endowment has sponsored a “color run” which raised funds through pledges and donations collected by students who participated in the event. While kids had a lot of fun walking or running through the course (while being blasted with bursts of eco-friendly, plant-based powdered dye along the way), the run created some supervisory headaches for staff who were trying to ensure that everyone was safe and accounted for before, during and after the activity, Kaland said. And, organizing it was a huge undertaking that required a lot of time and effort.

By going with a direct mail campaign this year, the endowment board hopes to make it easier not just for fund drive organizers, but for supporters as well.

“We’re not asking people to buy anything, and we’re not competing with other groups who are already selling something,” O’Donnell said.

Previous grants have funded things like iPads for special education classrooms at the high school, virtual reality apps for eighth graders and historical re-enactors who took fourth graders on a trip back in time.

Teachers have already been notified about how and when to send in their grant applications. Winners will be announced on May 9, in conjunction with Teacher Appreciation Week.