Help for the homework gap


You could certainly say challenges presented by COVID-19 are narrowing down thanks to an anonymous donor, and an affiliated fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation.

When COVID-19 became a reality, many schools were coping with the homework gap. “When the rug gets pulled out from under you, you have to restructure the entire system,” Lakeview Community Schools Superintendent Aaron Plas said.

Many schools turned to remote learning, but the challenge was making sure all students had internet access, and computer equipment to succeed. Thanks to an anonymous donor, and the Alice DeVoe Donor-Advised Fund, grants totaling more than $263,000 dollars will impact 31 Greater Nebraska schools. Local Columbus leaders got together to see if they could apply for the funding. “We had a big brainstorming session,” Columbus Area Future Fund representative Nicole Anderson said. “That included the United Way, the Community and Family Partnership, the Columbus Area Future Fund, Columbus Public Schools and Lakeview.”

To get the money from the homework gap grant, a local one-to-one match was required. For Columbus to get $40,000 dollars total, the homework gap money of $20,000 was matched by another $20,000 from the Community Family Partnership, the Columbus Area Future Fund, the Columbus Area United Way, the Lakeview Education Foundation Fund, and the Columbus Public Schools Foundation. At Lakeview, $15,000 will go to provide 60 chrome books to be shared among K through 12 students. Another $5,000 will be used for supporting summer school. “If it’s in person, which we hope it is, we will be under some restrictions, whether it’s 10 kids in a classroom or 15 kids in a classroom,” Plas said. “We can probably handle those, but where we run into trouble is getting kids to the school.” The funding will be used to help cover costs for people to drive the fleet of vans that could bring a small number of kids to school at a time.

At Columbus Public Schools, the money will be used in three ways, including to support summer lunch programs. A large portion of the money will be used by Columbus Public Schools to help staff address the mental health needs created by the disruption of COVID-19. “There have been major changes for the kids and their home life and school life since March,” Anderson said. “We don’t know what affect that will have when they come back into a more structured, rigid setting.” Teachers will be given more professional training to address and mental health issues. And, money will also go to help the district buy some I-pads for pre-school students. “Right now everything is over the phone,” Anderson said. “Now we can get some face-to-face interaction with those students.”

Columbus isn’t the only town where funds will be flowing in. You can visit the Nebraska Community Foundation website to find out where all the grants are going. In the meantime, school leaders in Columbus are thrilled to have some help. They say with the uncertainly presented by COVID-19, the money will help them continue educating students in a successful way. “The flexibility that these funds are going to allow us to ensure that we can continue to educate in a different environment, they are huge,” Plas said.

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