One of the most difficult – but necessary – decisions I have ever made as an urban schools superintendent was to close Atlanta Public Schools for teleschooling and teleworking. Necessary … to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Difficult … a potential disconnect between schools and our students.
Immediately, we entered a whole new world of education, a virtual one that required technology from computers to hotspots to access to the Internet. Unfortunately, in Atlanta – the most income disparate city in America – we have thousands of families who cannot afford to even get online at home.
This school year, APS distributed more than 7,500 iPads to 1st and 2nd graders as part of the Tablet2Read program and more than 8,000 laptops to students in grades 6-8. That made APS almost “1-to-1” at those grade levels. After closure of schools in response to COVID-19, the district distributed nearly an additional 9,000 Chromebooks to students.
But many of these students were not “connected.” No matter how many devices they might have at home, they couldn’t receive or turn in assignments if they did not have Internet access.
We put out a huge call. We needed more help from partners.
Today, I can proudly say that Comcast responded to our call in a great and generous way!
To bridge the digital divide for the city’s most vulnerable families, we joined with Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to provide low-cost, high-speed Internet and computers. The “Get Our Kids Connected” campaign is also an opportunity for everyone – from corporate partners to individuals – to make a grand impact in the lives of some of our most promising APS scholars.
Here are the deets:
For $300, contributors can give the gift of connectivity, which will provide students with a laptop and an Internet connection for 12 months. APS has identified a pilot group of 1,000 students with an immediate need, which sets the fundraising goal at $300,000.
Those interested in donating can do so by visiting www.atlantapublicschools.us/getourkidsconnected.
Even before we launched, we had an angel in our midst as Trinity HealthShare, a non-profit health care sharing ministry, became our first major donor with a $50,000 contribution to help kick start this campaign, followed by Atlanta Tech Village with a $10,000 contribution.
Trinity HealthShare CEO William “Rip” Thead told us that he and his group view the children of APS as “our children.” He said: “When we became aware of the opportunity to provide laptops directly to students who normally would go without, we wanted to take immediate action. This $50,000 donation is what we believe will be a jump start for reducing the technology gap for our children in the City of Atlanta.”
Our team worked hard with Comcast, and I am proud to say their work will not only help Atlanta’s children but those in other districts across the country as Comcast plans to expand the program with other school district partners in the future. We are facing extremely dark and difficult times. Today, I feel blessed and see a ray of hope because of this.