That’s the kind of access to education that Cincinnati Public Schools’ Chief Information Officer Jeremy Gollihue wants to provide to CPS’ families.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted CPS in March 2020, one out of four CPS students did not have access to broadband internet at home. And an unknown number of students — likely in the thousands — did not have electronic devices at home.
"There are a lot of digital-divide issues that affect the Black and Hispanic communities," Gollihue said. "COVID-19 put them in the spotlight and brought them to the forefront. The district is making it a priority to ensure that these students have equal access to education, through the pandemic and beyond."
Addressing this critical need — and doing it quickly — was no easy feat.
CPS' Information Technology Management Department set to work, gathering its supply of learning devices from warehouses and classrooms around the district. Then, each device was brought up to speed technologywise, and a distribution plan was set up.
As the 2020–21 school year began, all CPS students districtwide had learning devices in hand. That's about 35,000 devices.
For preschoolers, kindergartners and first-graders, that meant receiving iPads. Students in grades two through 12 received laptops.
Gollihue's team hosted distribution events at several school campuses so families could drive up and receive devices for their children.
"Some of these families were getting access to devices for the first time," Gollihue said. "It was really special to witness."
In addition, CPS' families now can access free home internet through Cincinnati Bell's Connect Our Students program, with support from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and other partners. Nearly 7,000 homes are receiving free internet services through this program.
Gollihue’s team also set up a network of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the district for students to use.
And when technology throws a curveball, the Family Technology Support Center is available to CPS’ families from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (when school is in session).
"In the first six weeks it was open, we fielded over 6,500 calls," Gollihue said. "That large response showed us the additional support truly mattered."
For Gollihue and his team, the emphasis of their work isn't just on the how they can help, but who they can help.
"Education shouldn’t be tied to just a building that you learn in," Gollihue said. "The district is committed to ensuring that all of its students continue to have access to the tools and resources they need — anytime, anywhere."