The Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) is launching a Technology Support Fund intended to help school districts and families purchase the mobile hotspots, prepaid data plans, computers and subscriptions to online learning plans needed to access and deliver distance learning this year.
The Technology Support Fund is seeded through a $50,000 donation from Bank of Marin and received an additional $11,400 donation from the Santa Rosa Express Youth Running Club. The hope is that other individuals, businesses and community organizations will also be inspired to donate to this fund so that more students can be served by it.
"The need for schools and charters to pivot to distance learning in response to the COVID-19 crisis has underscored the inequities that exist between students who have easy access to the internet and computing devices and those who do not," said Dan Blake, director of innovation and partnerships at SCOE. "Digging below the surface reveals a troubling reality: low socioeconomic status students and English learners are hit hardest by this issue. We are incredibly thankful to these community partners for coming forward during this difficult time to offer resources to help address this equity gap and give Sonoma County students the tools they need to succeed."
The COVID-19 Technology Support Fund will prioritize those districts and charters with the greatest needs based upon their student population and the impacts of the financial crisis on their operating budget. Using the seed funding, SCOE will set up a fund so local school districts and charters can make requests through a mini-grant process. Grants of up to $5,000 will be available to offset the costs of technology-related expenses tied to the demands and challenges of distance learning.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront inequities in our education system that have existed for far too long," said Russell A. Colombo, Bank of Marin president and CEO. "It is incumbent on us as a community to come together and ensure equitable access to remote learning so that all students can receive the education they deserve."
"During these times of extreme economic and personal hardship for so many, it is inspiring to see these community businesses and organizations step forward to support our most vulnerable students," said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools. "On behalf of the schools of Sonoma County, I am grateful for their generosity, which I hope will inspire other organizations to do the same."