When Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf announced on March 13 that students across the Commonwealth were being sent home for at least two weeks, educators were caught off guard. When it became obvious that they would not return to school for the duration of the COVID-19 health crisis, teachers and school administrators scrambled to keep students connected to their lesson plans via virtual classrooms. The dispersement of Cabot’s EITC dollars is helping to accomplish this mission.
“We needed to move quickly to identify and procure a solution for our students to allow them to participate in school,” said Tony Grieco, executive director of the Luzerne Intermediate Unit (IU18), which includes all of Luzerne County and most of Wyoming County.
Surveys of families found many lacking both electronic devices to access assignments and a lack of connectivity. The only thing the schools could do initially was to send pencil and paper packets via the mail and ask teachers to call the students to touch base with them. Clearly, that would not be enough, especially for students with individual education plans (IEPs).
“The course work is just a facilitator of information,” Grieco explained. “The teacher still has to bring that information to life.”
Grieco reached out to Melissa Turlip at Commonwealth Charitable Management (CCM) for assistance, and CCM in turn matched IU18 with a $20,000 EITC grant from Cabot. After assessing their options, IU18 struck a deal with telecommunications company T-Mobile and purchased 175 Alcatel Joy Tab 9-inch tablets with service plans. Distribution of the devices began on April 23.
The tablets will be used by students in grades two through 12 in Luzerne and Wyoming counties. The devices integrate several programs through Google Classroom and Google Meets and will provide access to grade-appropriate elements of curriculum, in addition to direct communication with teachers. Social work and behavioral help services are available, as well as speech and occupational therapy and autism support via programs as well.
“It’s really bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots,” Grieco remarked. “It allows for equity across the economic and learning ability divides and increases the ability of all students to participate in school.”
Though this contribution from Cabot via EITC dollars was more direct, Grieco noted that Cabot has previously sponsored professional development workshops with IU18 that concentrated on STEM activities and the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit (MOLU).
“We’ve had a good relationship with Cabot Oil & Gas,” Grieco stated. “They are very much education- centered and willing to be a community partner.”