MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Public Schools has teamed up with Verizon in an attempt to keep area middle school students engaged as they navigate new learning styles.
Families at five MPS middle schools were provided with free 1:1 Chromebook devices that come equipped with built-in hot spots allowing for free internet access on Wednesday morning.
"Connectivity is a real issue for our families, and we are very well aware of that and so this partnership, with Verizon addressing that issue and giving our students the opportunity to be more engaged in their virtual learning, is much appreciated," said Dr. Jennifer Smith, MPS Regional Superintendent.
This Verizon Innovative Learning Initiative will help connect roughly 2,300 students to class. Verizon is picking up the tab. The move costs the company an average of $1.8 million per school.
"In 2020, with virtual learning, I mean school is through these devices. So, if kids are able to have that data plan they’re able to connect and get to school," said Andrea Payan, Verizon Innovative Schools Coach.
District leaders say the devices, equipped with webcams, tablet mode, and other features critical to remote learning, give both families and teachers peace of mind as they navigate this unprecedented school year with new reliability.
"Now, through this partnership, using some of the technological devices we are able to extend our arms beyond the school, into the home, where we can now embrace community support around innovative learning," said Leon Groce, Principal of Audubon Technology and Communication Middle School.
It's a move some parents say will help them keep up with their kids' curriculum, ultimately leading to digital inclusion and academic success.
"Even though everything is going on like this, I still want to follow his education the best we can," said Jerry Elim, MPS parent.
Milwaukee Public Schools are among 110 new schools joining Verizon Innovative Learning for the 2020-2021 school year. The program now exists at over 260 schools nationwide.
In addition to the devices, the company is also providing a technology coach to each school that will provide additional support to students and also offer professional development to teachers.
Andrew S. Douglas, Audubon, Lincoln Center of the Arts, Oliver Wendell Homes, and Rufus King International are the middle schools participating in the new program.