Educational systems around the world are struggling to provide online learning to students who can no longer gather in schools. The challenges range from equipping and training teachers to teach online and adapting course materials to the availability of technology and connectivity, especially for low-income families.
We spoke with Rhonda Kadish, Community Relations Manager for the City of Hudson, about that two-time Top7 Intelligent Community’s learn-at-home strategy.
ICF: COVID-19 went from news reports about a problem in China to a health crisis in our communities in an incredibly short time. What challenges did that create for Hudson’s schools?
Kadish: Actually, when COVID-19 shut down schools in Ohio, the Hudson City Schools were well positioned to implement online learning for all students. We have to credit lessons learned from the City of Hudson’s Top 7 application process for that.
The city started working on the issue in the fall of 2017. We collaborated with e-Waste LLC, a full-service electronic waste recycling and remarketing solutions provider based in Hudson. The Hudson City School District began providing refurbished technology from e-Waste to low-income students and their families. It was a supplement to the “one-to-one” device program that had already been rolled out within the schools.
Then, in 2018, city government and the school district began rolling out a digital equality program to provide all students with internet access. It was funded in 2019 through a $15,000 Community Development Block Grant in partnership with Summit County. The grant made it possible to bring in the nonprofit PCs for People to provide computers and internet access to income-eligible families in the district.
Hudson, Ohio, USA
ICF: So, when schools when into lockdown by order of the state, what happened?
Kadish: We were actually planning to host an event in April 2020 for the income-eligible families, senior citizens and veterans to market the program. But when the Governor closed schools and ordered online learning for the rest of the school year, we changed gears. The risk of these student being left behind was great. Since we already had digital equality programs running, we were able to quickly arm the Schools’ social worker with devices and wireless internet hot spots for distribution to students who needed them. These students experienced no interruption in their education due to lack of internet access.
ICF: The Scouts, with their motto of “Be Prepared,” would be very proud of Hudson. Why do you think this effort succeeded so well?
Kadish: In this kind of emergency, you can never solve the problem alone. It was because of the Intelligent Community Forum’s Digital Inclusion pillar in the ICF Method that we recognized the importance of the partnerships created through the application process for your awards. That formed a solution that was ready be implemented in reaction to the Covid-19 crisis. And the partnerships keep growing. Summit County expanded the program to provide affordable computers and wireless internet hot spots throughout the county. Income-eligible families with students enrolled in K-12 receive priority. Those who met specific criteria received financial aid through Community Development Block Grant funding. It has been a truly inspiring experience for everyone involved.
ICF: That’s why we want to share it with other communities in our network. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it.