EducationLocalPrince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Technology Boost Aims to Help Prince George’s Students

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Eric Givens Sr. currently works on his laptop computer from home to assess repairs, registration and other information for Metro’s Planning and Scheduling Department.

With Prince George’s County Public Schools currently closed through April 24, Givens registered for his 16-year-old son to obtain a Google Chromebook to prepare for distance learning.

Givens and hundreds of other parents and guardians patiently waited in their vehicles Thursday, April 2 outside Crossland High School in Temple Hills to receive a Chromebook for their children.

“It’ll help him out really nicely,” Givens said. “We are working with every piece of technology at home. This is awesome. This will help him out.”

Crossland High School Principal Michael Gilchrist tweeted later that day the school handed out 600 Chromebooks.

Vehicles line up outside Crossland High School in Temple Hills on April 2 to obtain a Google Chromebook for students to use for distance and online learning during the coronavirus pandemic. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Vehicles line up outside Crossland High School in Temple Hills on April 2 to obtain a Google Chromebook for students to use for distance and online learning during the coronavirus pandemic. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Other schools such as Accokeek Academy posted pictures on Twitter thanking those who helped distribute more than 430 Chromebooks.

The technology drives held this month allowed students to prepare for distance learning, which began Tuesday, April 14. The Chromebooks must be returned when schools reopen, or by the end of the school year on June 9.

The state school board held a virtual meeting Tuesday, which included an update from Superintendent Karen Salmon on how the 24 school systems will prepare for online and distance learning.

While schools remain closed, Salmon said school systems must submit a “continuity of learning” plan that includes distance learning platform, technology available, describe roles of school staff and parents, how teachers are grading students and how to accommodate students who don’t have access to a device or the internet.

“We are learning a lot as we develop these plans,” Salmon said. “No effort on this scale has ever been attempted in the history of our state school system.”

Students without Wi-Fi access at home in Prince George’s can log in to the internet at or in the proximity of 33 schools. A list of the participating schools can be found at pgcps.org.

In addition to the school system providing internet access for some students, more devices will be purchased thanks to a $100,000 donation from former county resident and University of Maryland graduate Sam Brin, the younger brother of Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Brin’s donation, along with assistance from the Greater Washington Community Foundation, helps ensure every high school senior in need has the necessary technology to finish their secondary education.

The school system will commit $2 million to help cover internet access for families with students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. The partnership with Comcast and Verizon will allow about 82,000 students marked in that category to receive internet or broadband access for the remainder of the school year to end June 9.

Another $20,000 donation came from UnitedHealthcare toward internet connectivity.

Distance learning isn’t scheduled to start until April 14. A school system timeline summarizes what’s going on before that day.

Although March 30 marked the last day for the third quarter, students received permission to electronically file any previously assigned work by Friday, April 3.

“Students unable to submit assignments electronically will not be penalized,” said a school system memo released Friday. “Work identified by teachers as enrichment during the closure will not be graded.”

No online instruction will take place between April 6-13, which includes spring break and Easter Monday.

Professional development for educators to learn distance and online instruction began more than a week ago.

Technology priority went to families in need, parents who completed a PGCPS technology survey and those who communicated with teachers and administrators a need for assistance.

Those still in need of technology assistance can go to www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376 by April 30. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to midnight daily.

“While I do not expect your families to replace our professional educators … I do know that we are in this journey together and I truly appreciate all that you have done thus far,” Goldson said during an April 1 press conference outside the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo.

Those looking to donate toward technology costs can do so through the Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS Inc. at pgcps.org.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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