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Housing Authority Donates Money to Connect Students

The Housing Authority of the city of Pittsburgh announced it was making the donation Thursday, saying it was part of an effort to help end the digital divide facing many low-income communities.

by Andrew Goldstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / May 29, 2020
Shutterstock/photobyphotoboy

(TNS) — A $275,000 donation to the Pittsburgh Public Schools will ensure students who live in Housing Authority communities have the devices and internet access they need to participate in remote instruction. 

The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh announced it was making the donation Thursday, saying it was was part of an effort to help end the digital divide facing many low-income communities.

“This is the partial realization of a long-term effort to ensure that HACP students aren’t left behind due to the digital divide,” Michelle Sandidge, the Housing Authority’s chief community affairs officer, said in a statement. “It’s an investment in the future of these kids and an investment that we are proud to make.”

The school district will use the money to purchase Chromebook laptops and internet essentials for the 872 city school students living in Housing Authority households. The district said students will be able to use the laptops for the its summer programming as well as future distance learning.

The Housing Authority said it has long been committed to bridging the digital divide for families living in its communities. The technology needs of students created by the pandemic has “expedited” that work, the authority said.  

Student access to devices and internet service has become an important aspect of the education system as schools across Pennsylvania and most of the country have switched to remote instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools in Pennsylvania will remain closed throughout the summer, and even though the state education secretary said he expects they will reopen in the fall, some remote instruction could still be a component.

“Lack of internet access impacted communities in Pittsburgh before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the challenges families face have been exacerbated by the mass migration of daily life to the internet,” the Housing Authority said. “No internet now means no school, which can have far-reaching consequences on childhood development. No internet means falling behind.”

Thousands of families, including many who live in Housing Authority communities, told the Pittsburgh Public Schools that their children needed devices to participate in remote instruction when schools closed in March. The district has distributed thousands of laptops over the past months, but it still needs several thousand more before it can supply each student with one.

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said he had the goal of making the Pittsburgh Public Schools a 1-to-1 laptop district — meaning a device would be provided to all students regardless of need — before the pandemic shutdown occurred. While it is unclear when that objective will be met, he said that the pandemic has made it more urgent.  

“Due to the care and generosity of the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh, we will be able to level the playing field for some of our most vulnerable students,” Mr. Hamlet said in a statement. “We are so grateful for this contribution that will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of becoming a 1-to-1 laptop district.”

©2020 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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