Reaching a goal set two years ago, the Montclair School District is now able to provide computers and wireless hotspots to all students who need them, thanks to a $2 million federal grant. .
The district received $2,028,645 from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, a program authorized by Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and administered by the Federal Communications Commission. The funds will also allow students to keep laptops during the summer months.
The Connectivity Fund, totaling $7.17 billion, was designed to provide schools and libraries with money to cover device costs and connectivity needs for offsite remote learning. campus, according to a June 23 press release from the Montclair District. The district will also be eligible for reimbursement for expenses related to hotspots and high-speed internet from July 2021 through today, the statement said.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the district has stepped up efforts to bridge the digital divide, providing laptops for students and connectivity for those without devices and/or the internet. .
At a meeting of the Montclair School Board in July 2021, Christopher Graber, the district chief technology officer, told council members that the district’s goal was a “one-on-one” technology initiative in fall 2021 — ultimately aiming
provide each student with a laptop provided by the school. The $2 million will ensure that happens, school officials said.
With the new funding, 1,424 HP Chromebooks, including 11 with G9 touch compatibility, were distributed to students. About 50 additional requests have been received since the district rolled out this new distribution, grab says the Montclair local.
The new funding has also helped families in the district move away from trouble spots and instead sign up for high-speed internet from Comcast cable, he said.
Distribution for students at Glenfield, Bullock, Hillside, Edgemont and Bradford is complete, Graber said.
“We are in the process of coordinating pickup dates and times for the remaining schools,” he added.
Devices that have not yet been picked up by families are retained by the Technology Department, and those families will be contacted for pickup.
During the pandemic, the district began what would eventually be a distribution of 4,000 devices and 100 hotspots to students, and helped transition 67 families to the low-cost Comcast Internet Essentials connectivity program, the superintendent said. from Jonathan Ponds Schools to Montclair Local via email in June. 2021.
At the time, the district was using part of its technology budget of $1,748,771, as well as $102,525 of the $354,038 it received from the CARES Act, for Chromebooks and wireless hotspots. wire and to purchase touch-enabled devices for students in need.
But distribution of the new devices has been complicated by global supply chain delays.
Three of the world’s largest computer companies – Lenovo, Dell and HP – reported a combined shortage of nearly 5 million laptops in August 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy said at the time.
So while the district waited for its newly purchased laptops to arrive, it began distributing the ones it already had. The the technology team maintained and distributed 1,300 Chromebooks and 51 Wi-Fi hotspotsGraber said at the time.
Throughout the 2021-2021 school year, the district also worked with city partner organizations, including the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence and LapTop Upcycle, a local nonprofit that refurbishes old computers. donated laptops and puts them in the hands of families in need, to continue to meet the technology needs of students and families.
Students participating in the 2021 summer courses were allowed to keep their devices for these sessions. Additionally, any family that used the district-issued device as the only device in a household was allowed to keep the device through the summer, Graber previously told Montclair Local.
“It’s part of Montclair’s history because we’ve never really been one-on-one. [school district]Graber told Montclair Local in the summer of 2021. “Regardless of socioeconomic status, every student will have a device assigned to them.