By ERIN ROLL
There’s another way for Montclair families to help out the schools during the COVID-19 outbreak, and all they have to do is dance.
The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence has launched the TikTok Together fundraiser.
Families are invited to record 10-second TikTok videos of themselves dancing and send them to MFEE.
The deadline for the challenge has been extended to May 29, from the original May 20 deadline, so families must submit their videos before that date.
To raise money, each family’s video has a designated fundraising page on the MFEE website, where members of the community can donate money to their favorite dance routine.
The family that gets the most donations and the most crowd up-votes gets named TikTok Crowd Favorite, while the family that raises the highest monetary amount gets named TikTok Titan.
As of Tuesday, 14 families had signed up, and several others had expressed an interest in doing so, Masiel Rodriquez-Vars said. The 14 fundraising videos themselves had raised $6,925 as of Tuesday. The organization is hoping to get matching funds from area donors as well.
Each family has to do the same dance, which was created and choreographed by Montclair High School senior Claire Daddabbo and her family, to the strains of “Sunday Best,” by Surface.
Daddabbo herself is a TikTok influencer, with 850,000 followers. That is not even a record, she said; another student in Montclair has more than three million followers. She is also a member of Bad Dancers Only: a TikTok group that calls attention to mental health and depression in teens.
Daddabbo and her sister Eloise spend many hours watching TikTok and therefore described themselves as TikTok fanatics. They are familiar with virtually every dance move shown on the platform, so coming up with a dance was not too difficult: “It’s kind of like in our brains already,” Daddabbo said.
The video with the Daddabbos — parents and three children — dancing was the first to go live on the MFEE website, and it was included as a demo video in an announcement sent out by the MFEE.
Since the Daddabbos’ video went live, the family has been getting lots of positive feedback: “‘Oh my gosh, I saw you guys in the MFEE video, it’s so cute!’”
“It’s fun to talk about, embarrassing ourselves on the Internet,” Daddabbo said.
A lot of MFEE’s fundraisers are mainly geared toward adults, Rodriquez-Vars said. The TikTok Together fundraiser is something that a family, including young children, can do. Daddabbo added that the TikTok aspect will appeal to kids.
In a survey conducted by MFEE, teachers said one of the most pressing needs for their students is to help those struggling academically prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and may be falling further behind in distance learning. MFEE just launched MFEE PEEPS (Peer-led Educational Engagement Program), which pairs older students at Montclair High School with middle schoolers and ninth-graders who need extra academic help. Principals at each of the middle schools have identified students in need of extra help, and passed that information along to MFEE.
Another need the teachers said in the survey is to provide technical support for teachers and for parents on distance learning. “All teachers were thrown into distance learning after one day of training,” Rodriquez-Vars said.
The schools closed on March 13 so teachers could receive a day of professional development on virtual learning. However, by that afternoon, it was announced that the schools would close for two weeks. But since that time, students and teachers have not returned, and will not do so for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Some families may not have a stockpile of supplies, like crayons, scissors or calculators, at home. The fundraiser will help build up a stockpile of supplies for families who need them.
Lastly, the fundraiser will help buy supplies that teachers may need in distance learning. For example, Rodriquez-Vars said, a teacher may need a whiteboard that they can write on during video lectures. Some teachers have found themselves writing notes or diagrams on pieces of paper and holding them up to the webcam, which is not an ideal solution, she said.
Ultimately, Rodriquez-Vars said, it’s not just about getting the school community through the next few months, but preparing for what may be permanent changes in the schools due to the outbreak.
“We don’t know what the fall is going to bring,” Rodriquez-Vars said. “This is about making investments in structures that we can call up when we need them.”