Monday August 24, 2020

COVID relief funding helping OKC schools fill technology gap

Oklahoma City Public Schools is in the process of deploying technology devices for every student in the district. Providing technology access for all students in a school district (1:1 technology) has been a favored scenario throughout the world of K-12 education for many years.

This is a big win for our students and can definitely be seen as not letting a crisis go to waste.

While more affluent districts implemented 1:1 technology long ago, low income urban districts have faced many challenges in making it happen. Funding issues and connectivity voids for families have been major hurdles to overcome, both of which have been tackled by Oklahoma City Public Schools in the time since schools closed last spring. Utilizing federal and state CARES Act funding has allowed OKCPS to purchase devices for all students, and WiFi hot spots for families without connectivity.

Superintendent Sean McDaniel shared that this connectivity and device utilization is going to be some students’ first time experiencing technology access at home, making digital equity a reality for these kids.

Even with all the technology issues solved, we know that remote learning is not perfect. Wired magazine recently wrote a story about the “COVID slide,” warning that academic progress for students from low income school districts could be pushed back by as much as six months. In the best of circumstances, there are challenges for families accessing learning at home for their children.

Many affluent families are hiring tutors or forming parent pods to share resources. This is likely not a possibility for many OKCPS families, many of whom work in essential jobs and/or are facing financial hardships. It’s important to remember that OKCPS Student Nutrition Services workers have served more than 1 million meals since the pandemic started. When faced with the reality of not being able to feed your family, hiring a tutor is sure to be a very low priority.

The school year starting at home will no doubt present obstacles, but is also certain to present some bright spots. All students, no matter their family situation, deserve equitable learning opportunities.

Access to technology and connectivity is a huge step forward for the students of OKCPS.

Read Foundation President and CEO Mary Mélon’s original Oklahoman editorial.

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