COVID-19 has brought forth a global health crisis. It has also deepened and laid bare existing inequities, including those in education.
Our schools and district have been proactive in addressing our students’ basic needs from the start. Within two days of schools being closed, 22 community feeding sites had opened citywide. By the end of the week, that number had nearly doubled. Over 300,000 meals have been served to date.
Providing necessities like food, healthcare information, and mental health hotlines continue to be critical. But our children also need the technology that will allow them to continue learning. Their education cannot wait. According to 2018 census data, 19% of households nationally do not have internet access at home. In New Orleans, almost a third of households do not, and for households with less than $20,000 in annual income, that rises to 55%.
Our Current Challenge:
To address this, NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) purchased 10,000 Chromebooks to meet the needs of students that do not have computers. To support children without internet access at home, NOLA-PS first procured 5,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. Then, they identified the need for 3,000 more—and to offset the cost, $700,000 in funding is needed to directly provide students with connectivity. In response, the New Orleans Technology Access Fund has been created. Doing so will reduce the significant risk of learning loss our children face. Our students have made immense progress, and they deserve not to lose ground simply because they do not have internet access.
As a community, we can help. Already, local and national funders have stepped up to start the New Orleans Technology Access Fund. Together, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, The Booth-Bricker Fund, The Chip and Elizabeth D. Goodyear Foundation, The City Fund, The College Football Playoff Foundation, Entergy Corporation, the Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation, Pro Bono Publico, the Ray and Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust and a host of local funders have generously covered over half of the cost for these new hotspots.
Our Superintendent, Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr., has reflected on the urgency of this moment. “We are collaborating closely with our schools to ensure that we can provide technology as quickly as possible,” Dr. Lewis said. “We appreciate the leadership of our local and national funders who are stepping up to help close our digital divide and reach all our students. We hope that others will join them so we can ensure that each of our children have the opportunity to continue their education immediately. Our children cannot wait.”
We invite anyone who is able to help us fill the gap and bring our children the resources they deserve—through these hotspots, and also through continuing to meet their educational, physical, and socio-emotional needs.
Here is how you can help:
Any donation amount helps—to provide internet and technology access to students now and help them have as smooth a transition as possible when in-person learning begins again, and if additional funding allows, to ensure that other needs continue to be met, such as food, healthcare, and mental health support. Every donation makes a difference.
Join us. Our children’s lives have been upended by this crisis. We need to let them see their teachers’ and classmates’ faces, meeting loneliness and isolation with comfort and community. As the virus causes such change, our children’s virtual classrooms will be a source not just of education, but consistency. If we come together now, the chance to support and empower our children is in our hands.