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Renee Seiler, technology coordinator at Perkins County Schools, works on a hard drive upgrade that will enable the school to put more than 150 computers back in students’ hands, thanks to the grant money.

PCS recipient of $10,000 in foundation funds for tech needs

When the COVID-19 outbreak shut down schools in Nebraska this spring, teachers and administrators found themselves in unchartered waters on how to educate their students during the rest of the school year. 

Wide use of the internet, computers, iPads and video conferencing helped bridge the gap.

Fortunately, Perkins County Schools already had a 1:1 ratio of students to computers in grades 6-12. 

Following an inventory of both families and equipment, PCS was able to send a computer or iPad into every student home during the shutdown.

But they would have liked to do more. 

Even though households had devices, it didn’t necessarily mean they had access to broadband. Or in some households, it meant sharing a device among several students. 

Should PCS be forced into the same situation next school year or in the future, a $10,000 grant to bridge that homework gap will enable them to equip students even better. 

Through its affiliated member funds, The Nebraska Community Foundation is distributing $263,000 in grants to 31 schools across Nebraska, including PCS.

NCF offered the program, “Bridging the Homework Gap,” exclusively through their affiliated funds to assist schools with their technology needs.

Each grant required a 1:1 match, which was provided locally for PCS through the Perkins County Community Foundation Fund.

The local committee contacted Renee Seiler, the school’s technology coordinator, about the program. Together, they made application for $5,000 NCF funds, to be matched locally by
PCCFF—$10,000 in total. 

Seiler said the bulk of the money will be spent refurbishing 156 MacBook Pro computers not currently in use.

She said the current hard drive configuration in the machines would not accept the operating system software upgrade to the current version the school uses. 

With new hard drives, the machines will accept the system software upgrade, bringing new life to those machines. 

With the addition of those machines, PCS will be able to provide a computer to every student in grades 2-12 and an iPad to every 1st grader, Seiler said. 

There will also be funds available to purchase 10 cellular hot spots that can be distributed to households located in areas of the district where internet service is not otherwise available. 

Jeff Yost, president & CEO of Nebraska Community Foundation, said the homework gap has long existed, but COVID-19 exacerbated the divide between Nebraska students.

“These grants support a wide range of methods to bridge the homework gap,” he said.  In addition to computer equipment, software and internet access, locally-matched grants will also fund staffing for summer school and individualized instruction for at-risk and special education students.

The funds for the program were provided by the Alice DeVoe Donor-Advised Fund, an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

All of the applications submitted were funded, Yost noted. 

PCCFF Co-chair Becky Uehling said efforts to fund projects like this is exactly why PCCFF was formed.

 

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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