Indy E-Learning fund will distribute $1.5 million to help students with devices, connectivity needs

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Marion County school districts and charter schools will soon receive $1.5 million of the E-Learning fund to help address e-learning challenges that are impacting the city during the pandemic.

The Indianapolis E-Learning Fund was launched at the beginning of April by the Office of Education Innovation and local partners to support Hoosier children and their schools. The initial investment of $2.6 million is set to cover four focus areas, according to the city.

Those four include, addressing short-term needs for accessing devices and internet connectivity, developing a county-wide strategy for e-learning and social-emotional learning needs, and the launch of an e-learning lab for all schools in the state.

“It was very clear that schools and kids across our entire city need support,” said Brandon Brown the CEO of The Mind Trust. Brown is part of the E-Learning Fund committee.

To address the issue of connectivity and devices needed to support public schools and charter schools in Marion County, the Office of Education Innovation, along with The Mind Trust created a survey to put the spotlight on the needs of nearly 153,000 students.

“Many of these schools are serving high numbers of kids in low-income neighborhoods who need a lot of help and support,” Brown added, “I think what we’re finding is that the COVID-19 crisis is shining a light on many of the disparities that already existed in our city, so it’s not very surprising to many of us who spend our time in K-12 education, but it’s probably surprising to many folks outside of education.”

Patrick McAlister is also part of the committee, as the Director of the Office of Education Innovation. His office and the committee sent out a preliminary needs assessment survey to educators and it found the lack of devices and internet connectivity is creating barriers for students.

“The funding was distributed on a per-student basis with an emphasis placed on students who are in high need and that’s measured by the free and reduced priced lunch data from the Department of Education,” said McAlister.

When taking a look at the report, the results break down by district or charter school. More than 10,000 Indianapolis Public School (IPS) students are without high-speed internet. Based on the committee’s formula, the district will get nearly $250,000 to support those families.

In Perry Township, where 71% of students are on free or reduced lunch the district will receive roughly $176,000. In Washington Township the district will receive nearly $99,000.

“The districts and schools will ultimately be responsible for how to spend the money, but we provided some broad parameters for districts around investing in devices and supporting families to get internet connectivity,” McAlister added.

For now, it’s a short-term solution as the committee works to come up with more ideas on how to support teachers, families and students online.

“An e-learning lab where teachers and families can get support and training on how to engage in this content,” McAlister described as a future plan that teachers and families should keep an eye-out for.

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