HANCOCK COUNTY — Mt. Vernon schools were awarded $185,000 and Southern Hancock schools are getting $175,000 in grants that will be used toward improving technology for teachers and students.
The school corporations are receiving the money from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. It was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. Indiana received $61.6 million to award. The objective of the needs-based, competitive grant program is to help schools develop and improve the availability of distance-learning techniques and technologies.
Mt. Vernon and Southern Hancock applied for funding in partnership with the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis and the Central Indiana Educational Service Center.
The Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning was awarded $4.8 million in two grants. One is for $3.3 million for devices and broadband in nine service centers and 23 school districts, including Mt. Vernon and Southern Hancock. The other grant amounts to $1.5 million for professional development to improve educators’ capacity to provide online instruction. Mt. Vernon qualified for funding under that award as well.
Mt. Vernon will use its funds to update staff Chromebook laptop computers and expand wireless access in school buildings. The school corporation will also benefit from the grant by providing a learning opportunity for staff to advance methods of digital instruction.
Funds will be disbursed over the next two years.
Most Mt. Vernon students have reliable internet access at home, but 10% do not, according to a news release from the school corporation.
“Quality high-speed internet access is no longer a luxury in our society as many more elements required to manage life are accessed through the world wide web,” said Jack Parker, Mt. Vernon superintendent, in the release. “This is even more pronounced for the world of education.”
Wes Anderson, director of school and community relations for Southern Hancock, told the Daily Reporter that the corporation will put its grant funding toward the ongoing cycle of upgrading student devices. Southern Hancock students use Apple iPad tablet devices in kindergarten through sixth grade and Apple MacBook laptop computers in grades seven through 12.
“Technology is a big expense for us and a big priority for us as well, so this is a great opportunity for us to advance where we’re at and be able to stay on the cutting edge,” Anderson said.
Anderson also said the upgrades will come with new programs that the school corporation won’t have to include in its student instruction fees, leading to cost savings for parents.
Hundreds of families throughout the county opted into study-at-home arrangements at the outset of the school year amid the pandemic, making dependence on technology and connectivity critical. Schools also have adopted hybrid schedules, requiring intermittent at-home learning for large swaths of the student population.