Seattle Public Schools, the Alliance for Education, and Amazon have announced that a donation by Amazon to supply 8,200 laptops to students will help close the gap in Seattle Public Schools’ continuous learning plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon’s permanent, direct to student donation, valued over $2 million, meets the estimated need for elementary students and will help toward the goal of providing all SPS students with access to a device while at home so they can participate in those parts of continuous learning that call for online access. This donation also kick starts a new fund – the “Education Equity Fund” – stewarded by the Alliance for Education, Seattle Public Schools’ nonprofit partner. This new fund will support students furthest from educational justice in accessing the technology, technical support and additional learning resources required to continue to learn during the COVID-19 crisis.
SPS closed schools on March 12 and immediately focused on providing students and families with core needs – meal distribution at 26 sites, as well as an overall approach to remote learning. As the breadth of the challenge for continuous learning came into focus, SPS and the Alliance for Education worked together on finding solutions to enhancing the effort. SPS will prioritize the laptop donations for elementary students who otherwise do not have access to a device at home. With this donation, SPS will be able to prioritize distributing district laptops to high school and middle school students.
“Amazon’s gift comes at a crucial time for our students,” said SPS Superintendent Denise Juneau. “We’ve never lost sight of the need to continue our students’ education — even during this unprecedented time – and our community partner Amazon now makes it easier to keep moving forward with the critical work of teaching and learning.”
“Making sure our kids have the ability to keep learning is one of the most important things we can collectively do during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Andy Jassy, CEO, Amazon Web Services. “With this donation, we’re focused on Seattle students from underserved and underrepresented communities who otherwise would not have access to these devices – which helps enable SPS to educate and assist all of their students during this pandemic.”
“Now more than ever, it is imperative to support those students most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis – our students furthest from educational justice. Providing them with the resources to quickly transition to online learning during this pandemic is a game-changer. Amazon’s laptop donation fills a critical gap for thousands of Seattle students,” said Lisa Chick, President and CEO, Alliance for Education. “The Alliance for Education is working in close partnership with Seattle Public Schools to ensure students, families, teachers and staff have the resources, technology and training they need to keep learning going, despite school closures. The Education Equity Fund is a direct way for our community members to join that partnership and support our students. I am excited for our community to step in with additional creative contributions to continue meeting these needs.”
Businesses, community groups, and individuals are encouraged to get involved and donate to the Alliance’s Education Equity Fund to help provide students furthest from educational justice the support they need to continue to learn during the COVID-19 crisis.
Since schools were closed, SPS educators have worked to provide continuous learning through a variety of channels: digital instruction as possible; paper-based and translated packets available online and distributed at 26 meal distribution sites; video learning opportunities on SPS TV, social media and local broadcast partner outlets; emails; and learning materials and engagement from SPS teachers through Schoology, the district’s online learning management tool.
Amazon is working closely with SPS to ship laptops directly to students. Students receiving laptops from Amazon will keep the laptops permanently, further supporting them in their educational journey beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon is also supporting SPS students and their families through the Right Now Needs Fund – an Amazon partnership with the Alliance for Education that helps principals, teachers, and parents collaborate to remove students’ most basic barriers to learning such as the need for food, clothing, and housing. Created by Amazon in October 2018 with an initial $2 million grant, the fund supports SPS staff and communities with the resources to address the urgent and basic needs of their students. The Alliance for Education disburses funds to schools according to student needs, with schools that have higher rates of need receiving more support. Amazon has provided continuous support for the fund, including an additional $250,000 grant for 2019 summer programming and another $150,000 grant to enhance capacity to support families experiencing extra hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.