The DeKalb and Genoa-Kingston school districts were among county entities awarded a Digital Equity Formula Grant from the state to help students obtain technology such as Chromebooks to aid them in their e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which awarded more than $80 million statewide to help close the digital divide among Illinois students, according to a news release.
DeKalb District 428 will receive almost $397,323 from the grant, while Genoa-Kingston District 424 will receive $121,454.
The DeKalb Regional Office of Education will receive $30,508, and Sandwich School District 430 will receive $139,094.
Genoa-Kingston Superintendent Brent O’Daniell said the district plans on using the funds for the purchase of additional Chromebooks, Wi-Fi upgrades and additional hot spots for students struggling with connectivity.
“Closing the digital divide has been a priority for the agency since March, when the pandemic forced schools statewide to suddenly shift to remote learning,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said. “We saw in the spring that many schools did not have the technology or internet access necessary to connect students and teachers in real-time and to facilitate meaningful remote instruction. We have learned and prepared a lot since the spring, and we are excited to provide our highest-need schools the Digital Equity Formula Grant to strengthen their digital infrastructure this fall and for years to come.”
Many school districts have already bought devices and expanded connectivity since the pandemic began. Districts may use the grant to purchase additional devices and connectivity or to cover purchases made since March 13. Districts will receive reimbursement after submitting an application and quarterly expenditure reports.
“With this commitment of $80 million in funding to closing the digital divide, we are building on the same goals we’ve pushed since the beginning of my administration, creating a pipeline of high-quality learning from cradle to career,” Gov. JB Pritzker said. “Throughout this crisis, I have been so impressed to see all the creative ways superintendents and teachers adapted to the pandemic, a spirit of ingenuity that stretched up into our higher education institutions, too. This pandemic has heightened every inequality and injustice in our nation and our educators are on the front lines of seeing our young people through this moment.”