BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON — More than $193,000 in tech grants will be used to offset a half million in iPad upgrades in the Central Lee Community School district.
Those funds will be used to help put a tablet in the hands of every student in the district, according to Superintendent Andy Crozier.
The funds come from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, a $7.17 billion program through the American Rescue Plan Act that aims to help schools and libraries support student technology needs. The program provides funding to schools and libraries to cover the costs of eligible equipment and services that can be provided to students and teachers who need tablets, laptops, computers or broadband access.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our staff made incredible efforts to ensure our students had access to the technology they need,” said Dr. Andy Crozier, Superintendent. “Thanks to this grant funding, we will be able to better provide access to technology for our students in the future. We are thrilled to be able to move forward with this program.”
In July 2021, Central Lee Technology Director Kristopher Brewer began leading an effort to research and collect data from the Iowa Department of Education and Central Lee families to evaluate and determine student preparedness for distance learning. This data was instrumental in the district’s application for ECF funding through the Universal Service Communications Commission in August 2021.
“Kris brewer worked tirelessly on getting this. We knew our iPads needed to be refreshed. We were hoping and Kris committed a ton of time to it,” Crozier said.
He said the district committed $500,000 to refreshing all the iPads and was planning breaking the cost up into lease payments on the equipment, before being informed they were awarded the grants. Now, in the event of another pandemic or similar situation, every student in the district has a device and the district saved about 40%.
“Part of that ECF program deal was to ensure kids had access to those,” he said.
Connectivity is still an issue for a lot of the families in the district due to its rural area. Crozier said the district purchased a lot of hot spots and distributed those but said the district has backed off that a bit this year due to demand not being as high.
Central Lee received its first round of funding, in the amount of $29,723, last fall. In February, the district’s second application was approved, providing it with another $164,052.
To learn more about the Emergency Connectivity Fund, visit https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund.