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Calgary education trust looking for community support to provide electronic learning options for students

The Calgary Board of Education’s charitable trust working on a plan to ensure that all students can continue to learn from home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The ‘Technology Access for Ongoing Learning’ initiative was launched by EducationMatters on March 31.

Devices like laptops and tablets would be loaned to students who aren’t able to access online learning services at home. The CBE only has a certain number of devices and they’re looking to the community for help.

They’re seeking community investment in the plan to help them bridge the electronic gap for students.

Number of CBE students under the poverty line

Marilyn Field, EducationMatters’ executive director, said not having access to devices is the biggest barrier for some students.

“We estimate that approximately one-in-10 Calgarians live in poverty. We have a number of those students going to our schools,” Field said.

“If they don’t have devices, everything has to be done on paper. It’s a huge consideration right now,” she said.

Alberta Education said students will move onto the next grade, but Field is concerned for high school students.

“This is going to be a monumental problem, especially for those in Grade 12,” she said.

“They’re trying to go to post-secondary or further their education. If they can’t complete this work to get marks they need, they may not go to post-secondary.”

Estimated $1.25 million for electronic devices

With an average cost of $500, Field estimates that it would cost $1.25 million to buy 2,500 new devices.

“Families will not have to pay for equipment being loaned to them. We’re figuring out if we can get Internet capabilities and there may be a cost to that,” she said.

Field said the CBE doesn’t have a budget that would allow them to purchase more devices.

“They’re tapping into every resource they can find. We’re helping by going to the community and seeking help,” she said.

As for limits on loaned devices, the CBE is trying to give a single device per family.

“The CBE is trying to do group buys and purchasing arrangements with suppliers,” Field said.

The loaned devices will have to be returned to the CBE once school resumes.

‘Participate in online learning opportunities from their homes’

CBE Trustee and EducationMatter board member, Althea Adams, said it’s important for students to receive devices so they can learn at home.

“Loaning technology to students will allow them to participate in online learning opportunities from home while maintaining social distancing from friends and classmates,” Adams said.

“As a community, we can pull together to help them stay at home, keep studying, and have access to the supports they need.”