When the pandemic hit New York City with the largest school district serving over 1.1 million students in 1,800 schools closed in March of 2020. All across 31 school districts in the five boroughs, also including districts 75 and 79. For those that don’t know district 75 is for students with Autism, significant cognitive delays, emotional disturbances, sensory impairments, multiple disabilities. As well as District 79 in New York City’s alternative high school for our older students.
Fast forward to today January 2021 with 10 months of remote learning, with only 4 months of blended learning, and now about one week with some schools moving to five days a week of in-person learning. One can only imagine how many of our students needed devices to continue remote learning.
So the DOE spent money and lots of it, $269 million at that for 300,000 students. It was wasted on iPads that don’t have keyboards, but hey at least they gave you a case. It has been quoted by DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot as “A cost-effective long term investment in our kids that will be used as an educational tool long after the COVID crisis passes.” But one can also ask how can a device with a tracking system installed in order to make sure that these same kids return them be an “investment” for their education needs after the “COVID crisis passes” as quoted by her.
As of October, just a mere 4 months ago 77,000 devices were still missing in the hands of many remote learning students. Even though Mayor de Blasio claimed in the same month that “for weeks that every student who needed a device had gotten one”. With data that was released by the DOE showed that a large number of Black and Hispanic students had a low engagement in remote learning. And the number one reason for this was due to the lack of devices and WiFi in the communities forgotten by the DOE, Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza.
I even found that there were claims from the DOE that they will order Apple external keyboards for the upper grades that needed them to better use the ipads given to them. I searched and searched and couldn’t find any report or student that has gotten a keyboard as of yet. But if you are out there, please let me know!?!
“No student should fall behind due to the lack of access of technology”
And let’s be honest, even if they came with keyboards, these are ipads that came fully programmed already. With one app that has been completely removed, that being the App Store. I understand why maybe this app has been removed, possibly to ensure that they only use it for what is needed. What I do ask is why maybe they didn't limit what they can download from the App if anything. Then to top it off there are programs that kids are expected to use that don't open in the browser of an iPad or phone. One example is the famous iReady that many schools use to access students in how they are doing with math and reading.
One parent decided that enough was enough for her kids, grandson, and community. And that parent, as well as community activist is Tanesha Grant, who is the CEO of Parents Supporting Parents and Moms United For Black Lives NYC. What started with Tanesha and members of PSP raising money to the contribution of 3 laptops and co-sponsored for The Legacy of Eric Garner in the summer of July 2020. This led to further conversation with PSP and MU4BLMNYC. What started with an idea became a reality when she started a GoFundMe named “Harlem: Laptop Initiative for Students in Need” in September 2020.
The goal was to raise $500,000 and be able to get 1,000 laptops to students of all ages in Central Harlem. The ones that would benefit the use for completing their assignments, job opportunities, college applications, and academic excellence. With the same amount of money that the DOE wasted on iPads without keyboards, Tanesha was able to get touch screen Laptops that students can keep and use for the next few years after the “COVID crisis”.
“It’s a great initiative and I’m sooooo happy to support my Harlem community
She accomplished what everyone else failed to do in District 5, Central Harlem community when to this day was able to raise over $50,000. She accomplished this with the help of over 500 donors giving anywhere as low as $5 and as much as $500 and $1,000. One person believes so much in the cause that they personally gave her a substantial check amount of $5,000. She went straight to where she got all the laptops and endorsed it over to P.C. Richards in Harlem, and has been purchased every month since the start.
These are the students that she saw struggle in trying to log in to remote learning on a phone, sharing devices among their brothers and sisters. Someone may ask what is wrong with using a phone? Then try to do a class and looking at a screen as small as 5 to 6 inches that your teacher may be sharing with you and other classmates. You may even ask what is wrong with sharing a device? Then try to do your lessons and miss tons of class being tough because someone else needs to use it for their own class as well.
Tanesha has given out a total of 80 laptops and continues to buy more in the following months. It was made to given to kids in Central Harlem, but she has given them to students in other school districts as well. A 5th Grader from the Bronx, that received a laptop for his birthday but still surfers with his mother that has Lupus. A 12th Grader from District 2 in Manhattan, that lost his parents. The two sisters of a family of four girls in District 5, lost their father due to Covid. A 17-year-old young lady didn’t just received a laptop, but her first acceptance letter to a college. Students from Districts in, Bronx and Queens and her work won’t just stop there. In January, not only were laptops given but giftcards for food as well.
With enough donations, she can achieve her goal and help other families in need. So let me ask you one question. Are you ready and willing to help a black woman do the work? Then donate with what you can at the GoFundMe HERE.