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ABOUT US

MISSION & HISTORY.

Read an overview of our project and our vision for permanently bridging the "digital divide."

Connect Our Students

An Initiative to Power Universal Online Learning

The Need:

 

As all our schools shift suddenly to online learning, tens of thousands of K-12 students in the greater Cincinnati area do not have reliable computers and broadband internet connections. For these students, school has become unavailable. For many years we have had a “digital divide” problem: our poorest children have had unequal access to information, technology, and opportunities to learn, which exacerbates the well-documented achievement gap between White students, and Black and Latinx students. With the outbreak of this pandemic, this problem has become a crisis:

  • Schools are planning for the next academic year to include substantial online learning. 

  • Governor DeWine has announced $300 million in cuts to Ohio’s Department of Education. 

  • School principals have been told to brace for up to a 20% reduction in State of Ohio funding. 

  • Families are suffering a catastrophic loss of employment and income.

 

Across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, we have tens of thousands of students for which learning is simply inaccessible.  According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 25,901 households (17% of all households), including 49,043 students, lack broadband internet access.  For Cincinnati Public Schools, 4,072 households (28% of all households), including 9,818 students, lack access.

The Solution:

 

To comprehensively solve our region’s gap in access to online learning, school and community leaders are coming together to build a strategy to ensure that every child is able to learn every day from wherever they are.  The strategy entails three key objectives:

  1. Provide working devices and connectivity in the hands of every student.

  2. Get teachers ready to use technology for teaching aligned with the curriculum.

  3. Get parents and caregivers ready to support their students in online learning.

 

To execute this strategy, the following structure will be needed:

  • A coordinating community organization that has credibility across sectors in advocating for educational and racial equity, including among residents and neighborhood organizations who will be most impacted by the strategy and whose support is essential for its success.

  • A task force and plan for each of the three key objectives that include community partners with interest and expertise in those areas.

  • A broad base of community-based, corporate, civic, and philanthropic partners to help champion, design, and execute the strategy.

  • Detailed data concerning each area to sharpen their focus, to undergird the appeal to stakeholders for support, and to create a baseline for measuring results.

  • An accompanying fundraising strategy, with specific financial need articulated, that activates the Technology Fund created at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation with support from StrivePartnership.

 

Immediate Priorities: Taking on Objective 1

As this broader plan is being developed, the immediate priority is the first objective: ensuring every student has access to a secure, protected device and broadband service to make online learning possible.  Fortunately, the components of the strategy outlined above are already underway to achieve this.  The initiative will start by aiming to provide a device and full broadband coverage for all Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) students. By the start of the 2020-2021 school year, CPS is planning to deploy a device to every one of its 36,000 students by utilizing existing devices and procuring new devices with existing funding.  As such, this initiative will aim to fill the gap in broadband internet access to ensure every CPS student is connected.  Cincinnati Bell is partnering to provide an affordable broadband service exclusively available to students who lack access. It will operationalize in two broad phases:

 

Phase 1 – Every CPS student connected for the 2020-2021 school year.

  1. Serve five pilot schools, all with strong building leadership, to test and improve the implementation strategy. Complete these schools by the end of this school year in May: 

    • Rockdale Academy (neighborhood school) Pre-K through 6th: 345 students

    • South Avondale School (neighborhood school) Pre-K through 6th: 409 students

    • Fairview Clifton German Language School (magnate school) Pre-K through 6th: 723 students

    • Hays-Porter Elementary School (neighborhood school) Pre-K through 6th: 304 students

    • Roberts Paideia Academy (magnate school) Pre-K through 8th: 763 students

  2. Connect every student in the entire CPS district with broadband access by the start of the 2020-2021 school year (September 1): up to 4,072 total households

  3. Add additional area school districts as funds and capabilities allow. Devices may be needed.

 

Phase 2 - Long-term exploration of new operational frameworks.

  1. A task force is being formed to explore new technology models for the future. For instance, the creation of neighborhood-wide hot-spots that provide high-speed broadband for specific devices. 

Expenses:

For Cincinnati Public Schools, the need is entirely broadband access. The district is currently repurposing existing devices from schools and procuring new ones, aiming to have computers available for all 36,000 students by September 1, 2020. Broadband access is lacking for up to a third of these students. For $16.67 per month per household, this project will provide an internet connection of up to 20 mbps and technical support for the entire 2020-2021 school year. This broadband service includes measures to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act to limit access to harmful content and ensure the safety of the children. We expect up to 4,072 household connections, which would cost $830,688 for a full year of broadband access. The pilot project of five schools, including an estimated 844 households with 2,025 students without access, will cost $172,176 for the year.

Outcomes:

  • # students provided with free broadband internet service

  • # students provided with a device (if needed)

  • # and % of students utilizing the device and internet service (tracked by CPS)

  • % of estimated “digital divide” gap closed

  • Measures TBD related to tracking online activity and completion of online assignments

Partners to Date:

 

  • Cincinnati Bell:  For this initiative, Cincinnati Bell has offered a basic broadband service of 20 mbps, which is adequate for online learning purposes, for a deeply discounted rate of $12.99/month. 

  • Cincinnati Public Schools:  CPS will lead the identification of students through district-wide communications and school-level outreach.  School building leadership will be engaged to provide targeted outreach to students who are disconnected.  As noted, CPS is also providing devices for every student, as well as technical support for students and families.

  • Greater Cincinnati Foundation:  As the community’s foundation, GCF will serve as fiscal agent for the project, allowing donors to make tax-deductible contributions to the project.  By waiving administrative fees, GCF is ensuring that 100% of funds go directly to the project.

  • ComputerXpress (CXiT): A full-service IT company, CXiT initiated this project’s first pilot school by donating 27 computers to students enrolled at the Fairview-Clifton School and will continue to develop the pipeline for refurbished and new devices for schools in the area. In addition, CXiT will be leading a task force to develop alternative ways to deliver broadband and alternative technology to provide a seamless and ubiquitous device that simplifies access.

  • Strive Partnership: StrivePartnership has investigated national models for technology strategies, including those in Charlotte and Rochester, NY, and has the capacity to provide data analytics and quality improvement support to the strategy.

  • Donors: Corporate and foundation donors will be engaged to sponsor specific schools.  Individual donors will be engaged to sponsor a student for the year, estimated at $200.

  • Fundraising Partners (updated periodically):

    • Greater Cincinnati Foundation

    • Haile Foundation

    • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

    • Interact for Health

    • StrivePartnership

    • GE

    • American Sound & Electronics

    • Difference Maker Legacy Fund

    • United Way of Greater Cincinnati 

    • Cincinnati Regional Business Committee

    • Fifth Third Foundation

    • Accelerate Great Schools

    • Giovani Bernard Family Foundation

    • Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee

    • Jenny and Tom Williams

    • Individual donors

 

Moving Forward

 

Several partners listed above have been meeting to develop the broader three-part strategy. More partners will need to be enlisted as coordinating roles are further identified.

PARTNERS.

  • Donors like You

  • Greater Cincinnati Foundation

  • United Way of Northern Kentucky

  • ComputerXpress

  • Cincinnati Bell

  • Interact for Health

  • Cincinnati Children's Hospital

  • Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation

  • StrivePartnership

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Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about this and other projects that we are working on, please let us know.

ADDRESS

PHONE

EMAIL

ConnectOurStudents.org

c/o ComputerXpress

4440 Lake Forest Drive

Blue Ash, OH 45242

513-575-3500

extension 112