In May 2020, the Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, a local charity that focuses on bettering the Muncie community, began the K-12 School Technology Resilience Initiative, a program that granted eight public school districts in Delaware County money to better the technology in their districts.
“What we found … was that when schools transitioned to all-virtual learning, it just wasn’t an equitable process,” said Marcy Minton, Community Foundation senior program officer. “Some of them weren’t one-to-one [each student having their own laptop] yet. The parents and families were struggling to connect … Kids in that timeframe got lost with no learning.”
Grants were given to these eight school districts because they serve grades K-12 and are public schools rather than private schools. Minton said private schools didn’t receive the grants because of the funding they already receive from the tuition students pay, and there are a smaller number of private schools in the county.
“It just wasn’t an apples-to-apples comparison with the rest of the school systems,” Minton said.
One of the districts that received a grant from this initiative was Cowan Community Schools, which used the money to begin its one-to-one technology initiative, which includes teacher management software and getting Chromebooks for students.
Timothy Brown, Cowan Community Schools superintendent, said when the district shut down, it had no prior experience with e-learning and was planning on implementing it by having a “practice” e-learning day Saturday, March 14, the day after Cowan shut down.
“We literally planned the whole year for just a couple days of e-learning, and then, 22 e-learning days later, we still had it in place,” Brown said.
Prior to receiving the grants from the Community Foundation, Cowan had some technology in its schools, with computer carts students could use in their classes, but nothing they could take home. With the grant from the Community Foundation, Cowan was able to order individual computers for each student to use.
Brown said the district ordered these computers in June, but due to supply chain backup, it hasn’t received them yet. Grades five through 12 are already one-to-one, and the rest will be one-to-one when the district receives its order.
Brown said Cowan is “blessed” with what it has received from the Community Foundation as well as what it has received from other organizations that have helped the district with its technology needs.
“We’re just very thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the foundation and their folks because the work is much appreciated,” he said.
In addition to Cowan Community Schools, Daleville Community Schools has also received grant money from the Community Foundation, which it is putting toward new equipment for media classes, such as cameras, tripods and computers.
“We redid the library and built a studio two years ago,” said Melissa Crist, adviser for the media department at Daleville Junior/Senior High School. “This is our third year with a grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation, so the money from the Community Foundation has helped us on the broadcast side to double the amount of equipment that we have.”
Crist said with the money Daleville received from the Community Foundation, more students are able to get involved with media programs, giving them an opportunity they wouldn’t have had before.
“I think it’s really a benefit to the kids, especially in a district as small as Daleville, that there are groups in the community that help us with grants,” Crist said. “Being able to have professional equipment puts the kids ahead of some other schools that are better off financially than we are, and that are bigger than we are and have competitive equipment.”
Each of the districts that received money from the Community Foundation used it for different projects to make technological advances in their schools and make virtual learning more accessible for students, teachers and parents.