As the Flint Community Schools (FCS) district grapples with needs for remote learning with all schools closed in the pandemic crisis, a new grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation aims to expand internet access for FCS students and keep them safe through a filtering app.
A Foundation grant of $163,000 to the FCS will be used to purchase 800 mobile WiFi hot spots and 1,500 “Mobile Guard” applications– needed technology to deliver educational content to its students for remote learning.
The hot spots will help expand internet access for educational opportunities while schools are closed; the Mobile Guard application provide content filtering to keep students safe while online, according to a Mott Foundation press release.
FCS Interim Superintendent Anita Steward is guiding implementation of a distance learning plan for Flint students while school buildings are closed under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order. Families in need of the additional devices will be contacted directly by the district regarding pickup information, according to the Foundation statement.
Students and families in the district are being contacted twice each week, at minimum — once by a teacher for learning support and once by a Wellness Team member for social and emotional support.
“This technology is necessary to ensure students are still learning and part of a community even when they can’t physically be in a classroom,” said Ridgway White, Mott Foundation president and CEO. “We know an access gap exists, and we hope this grant gets us a step closer to eliminating it.”
Prior to the Mott grant, FCS already had provided Chromebooks with built-in internet access for middle and high school students.
“However, while the district has technology devices available for K-6 students to use at school, the devices are not programmed with the filters that would be required to ensure their safe use at home. Providing the hot spots and the Mobile Guard applications will help to eliminate learning barriers while also protecting students,” the Foundation press release indicated.
Flint Community Schools also will work to provide learning activities aligned to the unique needs of each student, including those who require English Language Learning services, Individualized Education Plans and 504 plans.
“School buildings may be closed for the remainder of the school year, but educating our students and personally connecting with them each day remains our priority,” Steward said.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of community partners like the Mott Foundation. During these challenging times, we will continue to explore opportunities to ensure our students have access to learning materials necessary for their academic growth,” she added.
“In addition to the core academic areas of reading, math, science and social studies, the district’s plan includes physical fitness, mindfulness activities, and the exciting activities that students traditionally participate in through community education and the YouthQuest afterschool program,” the Mott Foundation statement summarized.
“Community school directors, community health workers and YouthQuest afterschool staff will be available to all our families and will offer activities that complement the lessons delivered by our teachers,” according to Steward.
“We want our families to know that the people and services they depend on every day in the school buildings will be available virtually. We are committed to serving our students with not only the academic lessons they need to be ready for next school year, but with the social interactions and friendly faces that make coming to school fun,” Steward said.
The Mott Foundation also is supporting the Crim Fitness Foundation community education initiatives and the Genesee Area Focus Fund for YouthQuest after school programs–both working with the FCS to implement the distance learning plans.