Hundreds of students at Mayberry Elementary School in East Hartford received new Chromebook devices this week, thanks for a $50,000 donation from Pratt & Whitney.
“Pratt & Whitney has been kind of a savior for East Hartford as long as I can remember,” said Diane Smith.
She picked up the laptop for her grandson Jayvion. He is starting fifth grade. “My grandson is asthmatic so his parents are adamant that they don’t want him in the classroom.”
Having a new laptop will help to even the playing field and ensure all students have full access to their assignments.
When schools were forced to abruptly close in March because of the COVID pandemic, there was a significant digital divide, according to Nathan Quesnel, the superintendent of schools in East Hartford.
The district did all it could to round up any devices possible and reach the students most in need, but it was a challenge. Even handing out paper packets was difficult because families did not want to come to the school because of COVID-19.
With the help of other community donations, CARES Act money, and other state funding, every single student in the East Hartford Public School District will have their own laptop this school year.
The district is planning to start school on August 31. For the first two weeks, all students will learn from home. The third week, students who plan to return will come to school for half days. During the fourth week, students will attend in-person classes for a full day, all five days. A lot of school districts around the state are moving into a hybrid model, but in East Hartford, the number of students attending school was reduced by the number of parents choosing to keep their children home to distance learn this fall. So with 50-60% of students returning, they will be able to socially distance the students in school.
“We think we have a safe plan that keeps our educators, our kids, and our community safe. We have an incremental plan that acknowledges the fear that people have, but also slowly turns on the spigot because if things change, transmission data changes, it allows us to pivot quickly to where we need to go,” Quesnel said.