Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 23,000 computers and electronic devices are being distributed throughout the province so students can still maintain an education while schools are closed.
"Now, more than ever, we must come together to help children and families who are struggling in our communities," said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. "That's why we're working closely with all 60 school districts to quickly provide parents and children with the supports they need to connect with each other, teachers and learning opportunities."
School staff contacted families about their unique needs once spring break ended, who then started finding solutions. Many school districts found a number of families who had no computer for their kids to use, with some districts even finding up to 30 per cent of surveyed families with no technology access at all. Some families were found to have limited to no Wi-Fi access or cell service.
"Boards of education across British Columbia understand the diverse learning needs of the students they serve," said Stephanie Higginson, president of the BC School Trustees Association. "Boards of education know that learning solutions need to be tailored to local community needs. These technology loans are one small way boards are working to ensure that the needs of some of our most vulnerable students are met during these uncertain times."
Districts have already collected available devices from schools that are going unused, along with purchasing extra computers, laptops and tablets to fill the need. Staff have also worked with internet service providers to acquire low-cost internet or unlimited cellular data plans. Local internet hotspots have also been installed to bring free internet to multiple families in an area.
"Parents appreciate the incredible collaboration between K-12 education and the Ministry of Education to ensure educators can shift from in-class learning to remote learning for each child," said Andrea Sinclair, president of the British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC). "BCCPAC believes equity and equal opportunity are essential in public education and maintaining the connection with children is key. Families, especially those who are low income or living in rural and remote regions, must have devices and connectivity so their children can continue learning during this unique time."
For children who live in remote areas where it is difficult to provide internet access, thumb drives and printed learning packages have been delivered to their homes. Some schools are allowing students to access computer labs, and some First Nations are allowing their band offices to be used by students – all while maintaining the health and safety standards issued by the province.