MANATEE -- Schools struggling through the Manatee school district's financial woes may get big cash awards just by posting videos to the Internet. One Manatee County elementary school is seeking votes from the community for an opportunity to win up to $20,000.
Oneco Elementary has submitted a video and an essay, along with 186 other schools across the country, to the Big Lots "Lots2Give" program explaining why their school needs financial support.
Big Lots is giving away $120,000 in cash to 37 schools compiling the most votes for their videos.
Other Manatee schools beyond Oneco Elementary participating in the "Lots2Give" in-store donation program. include Samoset Elementary, Johnson Middle School and Southeast High School. The schools were chosen based on need to be part of the in-store donation program. Big Lots customers can donate $1 or $5 to go to the schools from now through July 7.
Oneco Elementary is planning on using the money from the video contest to buy a new playground. More than half of Oneco's former playground was removed from the school several years ago due to safety reasons.
"The playground equipment was old and worn, which made it unsafe," said Principal Tina Stancil.
The school does not have funds available to purchase the equipment needed for a full playground.
"We have some equipment, but we need to send out four classes for recess at the same time. Only half get playground equipment, and the rest can play in an open field area in a different part of the school," Stancil said.
Stancil said she wants all students to have the opportunity to choose to use playground equipment every day.
Stancil said students need recess for their physical and social development.
"During the instructional day, students are so focused that when it's time for recess, they need the opportunity to engage with other students and increase their physical development," she said.
Oneco's video, which features students performing a dance and comical cheer in an open sand area where they would place the playground equipment, can be viewed at BigLots.com under the Lots2Give tab.
Viewers can cast up to three votes per day on the website for their favorite school. Winners are chosen based on the number of votes, originality and persuasiveness.
Manatee County schools have had success in the past. Last year, Sea Breeze Elementary captured a third-place prize and received a check for more than $2,400 from Big Lots.
Votes will be collected until July 7. Winners will be announced in August.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081