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Gov. Holcomb announces $61 million for education connectivity, devices and resources

by Kathy Tretter and government sources

INDIANAPOLIS — Wednesday, August 19, was a huge day for education throughout the state, at least for 81 school corporations.

Prior to his weekly address to Hoosiers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he awarded grants totaling $61 million to schools, including $142,275.52 to the joint efforts of North and South Spencer County School Corporations and St. Bernard’s.

These grants were designed to improve connectivity and increase devices available to students and teachers through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.

According SSMS sixth grade math teacher Jennifer Eble, who worked in tandem with North Spencer’s Director of Technology Tama Rickelman, the funding will be used to purchase 100 hot spot devices for students who do not have internet access in their homes in South Spencer and 84 devices for North Spencer students. In addition, North Spencer and St. Bernard will purchase Chromebooks, with 175 going to North Spencer and 56 to St. Bernard’s. (South Spencer had just purchased new Chromebooks before the grant was announced.) 

“The goal is to sustain connectivity between now and when the PSC project is completed [an update of which can be found in the Commissioners meeting article in this issue],” Eble explained. “It was great partnering with North Spencer to do this. We couldn’t have done it without them!”

“Indiana’s students, parents and teachers have worked hard to adapt to the challenges COVID-19 has brought to education,” said Gov. Holcomb. “These emergency funds will enable Hoosier students to be more successful with remote learning. Some families will now worry less about internet connectivity, more students will have access to the technology needed at home, and more educators will have the necessary devices to teach remotely.”

Applicants submitted plans that included:

• The purchase of student devices including Chromebooks and iPads

• New or upgraded laptops, MacBooks, Chromebooks, and iPads for teachers

• and mi-fi devices with corresponding subscription plans for families who lack reliable internet connectivity.

These grants will fund a minimum of 68,689 student devices, nearly 2,900 teacher devices, and more than 85,800 connectivity solutions, according to the information provided by applicants.

Grant awardees include 184 traditional school corporations representing 1,366 schools, 64 public charter schools, and 124 non-public schools. There are almost 674,500 students enrolled in schools receiving these grants.

Twelve institutions of higher education will receive more than $11 million. This money will fund specialized training to better support parents and families, students with special needs, English learners, and provide social-emotional learning resources during virtual/remote learning. The initiatives are designed to directly assist K-12 teachers, including targeted professional development opportunities for eLearning, curated curriculum content, and technical assistance in implementing online curriculum. These resources will be made available at no cost to Indiana K-12 teachers.

GEER was established by the federal CARES Act. Traditional public school corporations, public charter schools, accredited non-public schools, higher education institutions, and other education-related entities were eligible to apply. An application could be completed by a single school corporation or a combination of eligible education entities.

The 257 applications received were evaluated by a team from the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and the Indiana State Board of Education.

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