Thousands of Greater Dayton students lack the devices or Internet connectivity to engage productively in remote learning experiences, according to Learn to Earn Dayton. To reduce the digital inequity that has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Dayton Foundation recently awarded a $70,000 discretionary grant aimed at assisting Learn to Earn Dayton in buying Chromebooks for schools in Dayton and Montgomery County’s high-poverty school districts.
“In order for students to be successful in today’s connected environment, they need the devices to do their schoolwork remotely,” said Barbra Stonerock, vice president of Community Engagement for The Dayton Foundation. “We see this award as an investment in the future of our community’s students and leveling the opportunities for low-income families.”
The Foundation’s grant joins with grants from Mathile Family Foundation, The Frank M. Tait Foundation, The Charles D. Berry Foundation, The Berry Family Foundation, Louise Kramer Foundation and the COVID-19 Response Fund for Greater Dayton established by The Dayton Foundation and United Way of the Greater Dayton Area. Total commitments exceed $300,000.
Together, these regional philanthropic partners will help address the first of a three-phase connectivity plan. In the first phase, Learn to Earn Dayton will provide and distribute approximately 900 devices to targeted schools in Dayton, Jefferson, Northridge and Trotwood Madison school districts. Phases two and three of the plan focus on the mid- and long-term larger strategy around access to connectivity, quality remote learning experiences, maintenance of devices and more.
According to Thomas Lasley, PhD, chief executive officer of Learn to Earn Dayton, one out of four students in high-poverty households access remote learning as little as once a week or less. By contrast, 83 percent of students in families with incomes of $100,000 or more are engaged in remote experiences every day.
“Remote learning is the new normal in education, and the divide in schools between who has access and who doesn’t is getting worse,” Lasley said. “If we’re going to be able to solve the challenges of remote learning associated with COVID-19, then access to connectivity, quality remote educational opportunities and devices must be addressed. Thanks to this grant from The Dayton Foundation, support from other philanthropic institutions and resources aligned with regional and statewide organizations, we can do just that.”
While Learn to Earn Dayton and the Montgomery County Educational Service Center (MCESC) will purchase and distribute the Chromebooks, the Montgomery County Regional Planning Commission, the City of Dayton, Montgomery County and other stakeholders will be investigating the best options for connectivity and developing a plan for increasing hot spots and/or Internet connections. MCESC also is a key strategic partner in both facilitating student connectivity and addressing the instructional needs of teachers.