Indianapolis Mayor Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a new $2.6 million fund Wednesday to help low-income students and their public schools in Marion County navigate the sudden switch to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Money from the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund will provide computers and internet access for students, design social-emotional learning strategies, and launch a statewide e-learning laboratory to give Indiana educators remote learning best practices.
“It is my hope that with this fund, every family, every school and every teacher, will have the tools that they need to educate all of the students in Indianapolis and throughout Marion County,” Hogsett says.
The Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation is in charge of the funds and still accessing needs of the county’s 11 public school districts and more than 40 charter schools. The fund is available to all public schools -- traditional and charter. There is no set timeline for when schools will receive funds.
Patrick McAlister, office director and chair of a seven-member advisory committee overseeing the fund’s distribution, says they are “working very quickly to get resources to schools and districts that need them.”
Laptops and internet access are expected to be the top requests from schools, due to unreliable or limited broadband capacity access, McAlister said. A memo detailing the needs and the decision making for giving funds will be made public.
The e-learning lab is planned as a hub for educators to share remote learning best practices and provide professional development support for teachers and administrators. McAlister says the lab will be up and running as soon as possible.
“We want to make sure that we are smart and strategic in our investments related to this learning lab,” he says. “There are some very strong elearning tools available. You don't want to replicate other tools that have already been engaged.”
The fund will also support the development of county-wide strategies for e-learning and social-emotional learning for immediate and long-term needs.
Hogsett says the fund should help parents and caregivers as they take a more direct role in their children’s learning.
“Without the parental involvement, frankly, we may run the risk of missing some kids,” he says. “So it really is going to be a collaboration that starts with school superintendents and school administrators. It involves teachers. It involves, obviously, students who are going to be positively impacted.”
Hogsett says parents need to be vocal about what is and is not working for their children.
Nearly 20 philantopic, business and education groups seeded the fund, including Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, EdChoice, The Mind Trust, and United Way of Central Indiana.
The seven-member advisory committee who will advise how to distribute the funds includes Superintendents Aleesia Johnson of Indianapolis Public Schools, Pat Mapes of Perry Township Schools, Shawn Smith of Lawrence Township, The Mind Trust CEO Brandon Brown and Jeffrey A. Johnson Sr. Eastern Star Church’s senior pastor.
Last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered all school buildings in the state to remain shuttered and for learning to continue through the current academic school year.