High school students in the most under-resourced school districts in Connecticut will be given free laptop computers by The Partnership for Connecticut so that learning can resume online while school buildings are closed indefinitely as a result of COVID-19.
The purchase of the laptops is the first major expenditure of the state’s newly created board of state leaders and billionaire philanthropist Barbara Dalio.
The computers will be distributed in the next few weeks to the 60,551 students attending high schools in the state’s 33 lowest-performing districts – such as Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and New London. When approving the plan during a meeting Monday, the Partnership’s board left open the possibility of also providing another 17,027 computers to students attending high school in districts where more than 40% of the students come from low-income families.
A CDC report found that short-term school closures have a minimal effect on containing the virus, but long-term closures spanning 8 to 20 weeks can be effective.
That has left teachers in many struggling districts scrambling to find alternative ways to educate their students who don’t have laptops or tablets at home – while students in neighboring and better resourced districts gear up to begin taking courses online.
“I think there is no better thought to bring The Partnership really on stage than this here, given the number of students who will lose learning because of this crisis,” said Erik Clemons, the chairman of the board. “When I think about access and opportunity that equals equity, this to me could be a real game changer for a lot of kids and a lot of families, quite frankly. I think this is just absolutely incredible in demonstration of our mission.”
Gov. Ned Lamont, a member of the board and the driving force behind its creation, agreed.
“We cannot, as you pointed out Mr. Chairman, afford to let our kids lose three, six months of education. This is the way to address that in the near term, address that by breaking the digital divide so that nobody’s left behind,” Lamont said. “I’m just glad that this partnership is thinking about what they can do for these kids now and also wants to think about the day after to make sure each and every one of us gets back on our feet as fast as they can and leave no one behind.”
In other business Monday, the board appointed Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey as its chief operating officer and president during the meeting. Carey’s salary will be $247,500, which is the salary the board initially budgeted for the position.
Schmitt-Carey’s LinkedIn profile says she is the chief executive officer of Say Yes to Education, a national nonprofit geared at helping high school students graduate high school prepared for college. Before that she was the president of New American Schools, which merged with the national think-tank American Institutes for Research, and helped create a national school improvement program.
“I’m overwhelmed and humbled and at this moment in time. I just can’t think of anything more important to do and I’m just so impressed with you as a board and as a really unique collaborative in the country, so I will be working very hard and earning your trust and belief in your decisions every day,” she told the board after they unanimously approved her appointment.
“Welcome to the team,” Lamont told her.