Some Brampton students set to receive electronic devices to help with at-home learning

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When the province announced that all schools will be closed until at least May 4 (with the possibility of closures being extended indefinitely), many lower-income families in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon worried that their children would be unable to access teacher-led lessons online.

Fortunately for families in need, the Peel District School Board (PDSB) says it has developed a plan to provide staff and students with access to tablets, laptops, and Wi-Fi-enabled devices/routers. 

In a letter to families, the board says it has begun to distribute more than 14,500 devices and approximately 1,900 Wi-Fi-enabled devices/routers to students who require them to participate in distance learning. 

Staff members who were unable to deliver instruction from home have already been provided with the necessary devices, the board says.

As we explored this new way of learning, we recognized that these are not normal times and so we cannot expect that all students will be equitably well-positioned to learn from home. We anticipated a significant need for devices and Internet access amongst our student population, so we asked teachers to contact families to learn their technology needs, and they did so with care and compassion,” said Peter Joshua, Director of Education, in a letter to families. 

We want to ensure that every learner has the tools they need to be successful; we cannot penalize them for the circumstances they find themselves in. In every discussion, equity of access has been top-of-mind. In the work we are doing to meet students’ technology needs, we are removing one of the barriers that exists in a distance learning environment. We are committed to ensuring that other barriers are also addressed so that we can achieve our goal of ensuring success for all.”

Last week, the board said it will work to deliver technology to more than 2,000 secondary students, with graduating students as a priority. 

Elementary schools will distribute devices to families beginning the week of April 13, 2020. 

We anticipate that this distribution process could take up to two or three weeks given the volume of devices that need to be handed out,” Joshua wrote. 

Joshua says that Students’ Special Equipment Amount (SEA) technology and non-technology equipment will be distributed to families the week of April 13.

Staff have worked tirelessly to collect devices, prepare inventory for distribution, develop distributions plans and safely deliver devices to students,” said Jaspal Gill, Associate Director of Operational Support Services, in a letter to PDSB families. 

Through existing Peel board inventory that will be loaned, donations from organizations and community members, and purchases of additional devices, we are able to provide a solution for every Peel board student who identified a need.” 

The PDSB says that local organizations have also stepped up to help donate technological devices to students in need, including Venture X Canada, a company that provides companies and individuals with office space. 

Venture X recently launched a Tech 4 Learning fundraising campaign to help provide up to 10,000 needy PDSB students with 10,000 necessary devices.

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the education of millions of students. School boards are turning to distance learning to ensure kids are still able to continue their school year. This plan needs to be supported by access to a computer, laptop or tablet, and a high-speed internet connection,” Venture X Canada wrote on its website.

Every student must have access to these essentials so that all learning needs are met.” 

Venture X has already donated 1,000 Chromebooks and is encouraging the community to donate more. 

Organizations who wish to donate devices can email communications [at] peelsb [dot] com.

We are thankful to community partners like Venture X who donated 1,000 Chromebooks to Peel board students and are encouraging other businesses to support students through the Tech 4 Learning fundraising campaign. Their hope is to deliver 10,000 devices to students in the Peel community, and we very much appreciate their generosity,” Joshua said in a letter to families.

The board says that internet access will also be provided to students who indicated they did not have access at home. Internet sticks will be mailed directly to students’ homes beginning this week. 

Other families who do not have access to a device or the internet will be provided with internet-enabled devices in the days ahead. The board says families will be notified when these are ready to be picked up.

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