When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Alabama schools to close their traditional classrooms in March, Corey Jones said it hit his students in rural Greene County doubly hard.
“We’re one of the poorest school districts in the state, and most of our students don’t have computers or access to the internet,” said Jones, Greene County School System superintendent. “We had to print out instructional packets and use buses to deliver them to students. Having to rely solely on printed materials put them at a significant educational disadvantage.”
Jones said because most parents in his school district are still concerned about sending their children back to the classroom in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, remote learning will continue during summer school and most likely through the fall semester. But thanks to the Alabama Power Foundation, Greene County students will soon have the technology they need to navigate their new virtual classroom.
The foundation provided a grant to the Greene County School System to help pay for Chrome books for 600 students in grades K-12. The funds will help purchase hot spots for students living in the most rural areas where broadband is unavailable. This technology will be used by students at Eutaw Primary, Robert Brown Middle and Greene County High schools.
“The pandemic has created many challenges for education in our communities – especially in rural areas,” said Alabama Power Western Division Vice President Mark Crews. “This grant will help Greene County schools overcome barriers such as access to the internet and computers as they prepare for distance learning. We’re proud to be a partner to our schools and thankful that the Alabama Power Foundation’s grant will be utilized in such an important way.”
Jones said the grant will be a real “game changer” for his students.
“It has been a godsend to have the Alabama Power Foundation partner with us,” Jones said. “The grant will allow us to provide resources to our students during this critical time so they can continue instructional learning and receive educational opportunities. Now every student will have access to devices and the internet and will be able to use them anytime in the comfort of their home.”
Greene County School Board President Carol Zippert added her thanks and said the Alabama Power Foundation’s gift will make all the difference.
“We value our students and are deeply committed to providing the best educational services and opportunities for each one,” she said. “We also recognize that to accomplish our goals, we need partners who are sensitive to our student and community needs and aspirations and are willing to reach out and share with us. Alabama Power Company is a longtime friend and supporter of the Greene County School System, and we take this opportunity to acknowledge the goodwill spirit of this relationship.”
Jones said some students will begin using their new Chrome books immediately during summer school.
Additionally, plans are to offer a summer learning program to help students catch up on the curriculum they may have missed from March through May. There will be an enrichment program to boost learning during the summer and support students who are struggling academically.
Jones said the Chrome books – fully loaded with all necessary programs and ready to use out of the box – have been ordered and are in route to students’ homes. The school system is working closely with internet providers to set up the permanent hot spots.
Jones believes that virtual learning is here to stay – even after the coronavirus is no longer a threat.
“We already know that students are affected by the ‘summer slide’ and lose much of what they have learned,” Jones said. “But with COVID-19, it will be worse this year because summer started in the middle of March, and students will have been away from school for a much longer time. Even after COVID-19 goes away, we will be using these devices to extend learning time to weeknights, weekends and the summer.”