The year 2020 has been one unlike any other. We are so appreciative of the wide-spread support we’ve received for the Baltimore City Public Schools’ Emergency School Closure Family Support Fund which has enabled the district to be immediately responsive to the needs of our community. Here are the steps by the district that this fund helped make possible.
At the start of the pandemic, the most urgent need was ensuring that students who rely on schools for meals had regular access to food. Within a week of schools closing, City Schools opened 18 meal sites where students received two “Grab and Go Meals” per day. From March-August, meal sites provided 241,686 additional meals to guardians of students and to the nearby elderly community members lacking access to other food resources. While meal service during the summer is typically suspended, limited summer programming due to COVID meant City Schools’ meal sites continued operation. When school returned this Fall, City Schools significantly expanded meal sites from 19 to 85.
Baltimore’s digital equity divide also came to the fore at the onset of the pandemic. The device shortage presented a major obstacle to virtual learning. Since March, City Schools has acquired 55,000 laptops for students and as of November, 46,696 have been distributed. The district is continuing to reach out to students who have faced barriers in connecting virtually to provide them with a device as needed.
The lack of internet access presented another significant barrier to student success. The district is currently connecting students in need through hotspots and Comcast internet service. In June, City Schools purchased 15,000 hotspots. These were delivered to schools for distribution to the highest need students and can support up to four laptops at a time. In September, City Schools entered into an agreement with Comcast that allows the district to pay directly for internet service for up to 7,000 households of City Schools’ students through September 2021.
During this time of great uncertainty, the Baltimore community is banding together to ensure food and academic stability for tens of thousands of City Schools students. This fund supplements public COVID-19 relief supports, allowing a broader reach for this work and a more immediate response for the need. Through this collective support, and the flexibility with which we are able to direct the Emergency School Closure Family Support funds, the district and its students have been equipped with timely resources critical for their success in a challenging time. We are most grateful and we will continue fundraising efforts as the need still remains.