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Students, teachers get significant investment for distance learning support

When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in physical school closures last spring, thousands of local students and educators had to quickly figure out how to safely and effectively continue academics remotely. Mary C. Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools, looked to the private sector and community partners for support. Among the first to come forward was Bank of America with a $75,000 COVID Relief Grant to help support the purchase of 20,000 Chromebooks and 5,700 Wi-Fi hot spots. The grant will help provide the needed resources for students to stay connected with their distance learning curriculum as Kern County schools begin the new school year.

An estimated 40,000 students countywide did not have access to the internet and/or a computer at home when schools physically closed on March 18, 2020. With the help of philanthropic partners such as Bank of America, Valley Strong Credit Union, Bakersfield West Rotary and others, students now have devices and internet connectivity that will allow them to stay in touch with teachers, curriculum, and perhaps most importantly, their peers.

“We were presented the opportunity to look at what online distance learning looks like for public schools, a modality that our partners in higher education have long offered and excelled at,” said Mary C. Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools. “It’s an exercise that would have happened naturally, but is being accelerated due to our current reality. This tremendous support from Bank of America, along with the other local support we have received, will transform lives.”

Over the past several months, KCSOS, in partnership with school districts, has implemented various strategies to help bridge the gap in technology and has since rolled out robust online learning platforms through Canvas and other education applications.

“Access to education is key to long term economic stability and growth, so it was important for us to help the Kern County Superintendent of Schools overcome some of the barriers that students and educators were facing when the crisis began. These are truly unprecedented times, and KCSOS quickly pivoted to identify alternative sources of support like the private sector and community leaders to create an effective remote learning model,” said Karen Zuber, Bakersfield market manager, Bank of America.

For information on how to financially support local distance learning efforts, please email [email protected].