Calgary faculty boards are growing tech loans as the vast majority of college students examine from residence
The Calgary school authorities say they are doing everything they can to ensure students have proper access to technology while studying from home. However, a local charity says many students are still in need.
Many Alberta students have been studying online for months, others were brought back online this month as COVID-19 cases increased. The province plans to have nearly all Alberta students studying online at home for a week after the winter break.
Marilyn Field, executive director at EducationMatters, which supports education improvement programs on the Calgary Board of Educations, said there are a number of reasons why students may have difficulty accessing the technology they need.
“In a utopian world, of course, every citizen would have a device, every single person one. But you know, we are not here,” she said.
“Some of this is due to financial challenges. Some of it might just be because families have one device but need more than one device because people study and work from home.”
The CBE said it is taking several approaches to support families who are learning from home and who may not have access to the technology or equipment they need for all learners.
“We have developed a student equipment loan program that enables schools to borrow computer equipment for students from their existing inventory,” said a written statement.
The CBE said schools have been providing loan technology to families since the start of the school year, but increased efforts over the past month.
“Since students in grades 7 to 12 switched to home learning on November 30, the CBE has worked with our contract partner PCCorp to deliver 2,200 additional devices to 97 different schools within two days,” it continues.
“We are drawing on a variety of funding sources to meet these unprecedented needs, including donations from EducationMatters, additional federal and state funding, and the reallocation of other funding from technology initiatives.”
Field said EducationMatters was recently able to raise $ 200,000 in private donations that were used to provide an additional 550 devices for the CBE’s technology loan program.
160 students are still in need
Despite our best efforts, FieldMatters estimates that at any given time there are approximately 160 students who do not have the technology to study at home.
“When some needs are met, other students find that they need more technology than they have, or that they need to be isolated, or whatever the situation,” she said.
Bryan Szumlas, chief superintendent of the Calgary Catholic School District, said technology is being delivered to students who need it from school to school and student to student.
“I heard no concerns at all,” he said. “Our staff unlocked this technology and enabled our students to use it during this difficult time of COVID-19.”
A letter from a CCSD primary school asked that students only request technology loan if they absolutely needed it.
“Since this takes a week, we ask that you do not request a Chromebook if you have any other technology that can be used as it is very expensive for the school to purchase and maintain,” it says. “However, if you have no other option to get online, we will provide technology to assist you.”
Szumlas said this was an attempt to give students fair access to technology.
“When we have a family who has access to technology at home, we stop asking because we know there are many families who don’t have the technology,” he said. “So let’s start with them first.”
Szumlas said the CCSD’s technology needs this year were supported in part by United Way and the Calgary Catholic Education Foundation.