The University of Montevallo’s GEAR UP Jefferson County program is helping about 350 high school students stay connected with their education during social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this academic year, GEAR UP partnered with eighth-grade classrooms at Fultondale High School, Tarrant High School and Fairfield High Preparatory School through its 1:1 initiative.
GEAR UP is designed to improve access, opportunities and outcomes for students from historically marginalized populations and underserved communities, particularly students of color, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and students with disabilities.
Through the 1:1 initiative, GEAR UP purchased laptops for the schools to loan to students.
After holding meetings with school leaders, teachers and parents to demonstrate how to take advantage of educational resources such as Google Classroom, the GEAR UP program delivered the devices to the students in February and March.
Shortly after all of the devices had been delivered, the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the nation to move to a technology-dependent distance education model, making the 1:1 initiative more relevant than ever.
As a result of the initiative, students who otherwise may not have access to a digital learning environment have been able to stay connected with their classrooms from home. This has allowed teachers to continue to provide instruction and coursework to their students even though they are not able to meet in person for the remainder of the semester.
GEAR UP is also working to support teachers navigating the distance education model by offering digital professional development programs for teachers.
“We are trying to do everything we possibly can to support the schools and the teachers,” said GEAR UP Jefferson County director Jenny Ceesay.