Group collecting devices, cash donations to help students finish school year online
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IDAHO FALLS — For some students, home-based learning has been effective, but for those who don’t have the tools necessary to do online learning, it’s been far from successful.
Idaho Business for Education is an employer advocacy group committed to transforming Idaho’s education system. To continue with their mission while schools are shut down, they are trying to make sure all Idaho students have the devices and internet connection needed to finish out their school year remotely, but they need your help.
“IBE, about a month ago when this was all coming down, did a survey and asked the school districts what their biggest needs were and what they were worried about with this coming up,” Aaron Johnson, the chairman of the steering committee for this initiative said. “Overwhelmingly, the two biggest needs were are we going to have enough devices for our students to have at home to be able to do their schoolwork, and are we going to be able to provide internet connections for them to do their schoolwork?”
Idaho Business for Education is comprised of hundreds of businesses such as Melaleuca, Simplot and Albertsons. Johnson said through their connections, they felt they could help ease the district’s worries, so they set up an emergency task force.
They partnered with school districts and launched a statewide initiative called the Community Activation Project. The goal is to collect used computer devices to donate to school districts across Idaho and to provide hotspots for families without internet access by working with internet providers.
“Some have the ability to connect say to Sparklight, which used to be Cable One, but they can’t afford it. There’s low-income homes that can’t afford the connection,” Johnson said. “And there are some homes that just can’t get connection, the only way to get connection is through a cellular phone.”
Idaho Business for Education CEO Rod Gramer told the Idaho Press that 12,000 to 15,000 devices are needed statewide, and about 22,000 students are without internet access, according to information Idaho Business for Education gathered from school districts.
Johnson said eastern Idaho isn’t in need of devices like they are connectivity. But one of the issues districts are facing with hotspots is being able to afford them.
“(IBE) is trying to make sure that there is sufficient funding available because in our school budgets, we don’t have connectivity for individual homes. We have connectivity to the schools, but not to the homes,” Senator Dean Mortimer, whose the Senate education chairman said.
Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said parents and students should always be actively engaged in their educational process and not just leave it to the public education system.
“I need our students to know that they need to take the initiative. They need to be proactive, and they need to aggressively seek out ways to get the learning that they need,” Mortimer, who complimented the educational professionals for their work right now, said. “They need to be interacting not only with their teachers but specifically with their parents, getting assignments, getting all of the things that they need to finish their education for this year.”
Although the end of the school year is winding down, Johnson said it is still worth it to help the students in need.
“We’ve got a whole subset, probably majority subset of parents who are both working, the kids don’t have the ability to connect. … They’re the kids that are at risk for falling way behind,” Johnson said. “This is only going to make them fall even further behind, which is not a good thing. We’re going to lose them faster if we can’t do something.”
To make a monetary donation to a school district in east Idaho, call Johnson at (208) 221‐7349.
If you’d like to make a donation into a general fund to support students in need across the state, click here.
Checks can also be mailed to the Idaho Community Foundation at 210 West State St., Boise, ID 83702.
More information on the initiative can be found here.