GEER Fund to Help Children Gain Equal Access to Virtual Learning Opportunities

In order to provide Connecticut’s early childhood programs and young families with equal access to virtual learning and critical services during the pandemic, thousands of iPads will be distributed statewide, thanks to the governor’s office, the Office of Early Childhood and the RESC Alliance. The collaboration will also deliver important professional development and new virtual-learning strategies to early childhood teachers and providers across the state.

Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye

Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye

“Remote services are a very recent development for early childhood, and the Office of Early Childhood has been grateful for the partnership with EASTCONN and the RESC Alliance to launch and support the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER Fund) program,” Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye said. “This innovative initiative will use technology to connect families to critical early learning opportunities and family support services.”

Implemented last summer, Gov. Ned Lamont’s $27.8 million GEER Fund was distributed to help close the digital divide in Connecticut’s lower-income areas and ensure that disadvantaged students, from early childhood to K-12 to post-secondary, had equitable access to remote learning and educational resources throughout the pandemic and beyond. About $4 million of the GEER Fund went to the Office of Early Childhood to support young families whose children are accessing their educational programs and services remotely. The fund loans iPads to families and provides them with both WiFi access and technical support. The grant also provides PD for early childhood program teachers/providers. In the coming weeks, 2,400 iPads will be programmed and distributed statewide to families, as well as under-resourced programs.

On behalf of the state’s Office of Early Childhood, EASTCONN is coordinating the GEER Fund’s technology acquisition, distribution and support efforts, as well as the professional learning component, which is being delivered to early childhood staff by the state’s Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) Alliance. EASTCONN is a member of the RESC Alliance, which also includes ACES, CES, CREC, EdAdvance and LEARN. The Technology Solutions group at EASTCONN has been programming iPads that will be distributed to young families in northeastern Connecticut. EASTCONN staff are also coordinating the RESC Alliance’s Help Desk services, as well as a collaborative effort to program and distribute thousands of iPads around the RESC regions.

EASTCONN’s Director of Early Childhood Initiatives Diane Gozemba

EASTCONN’s Director of Early Childhood Initiatives Diane Gozemba

“A critical aspect of the GEER initiative is focused on providing PD to early childhood programs that may lack the technology or the expertise to engage with families in remote learning,” said Diane Gozemba, EASTCONN’s Director of Early Childhood Initiatives. “Our research-based, best-practice PD offers new strategies and approaches for keeping children and families involved in learning.”

For this initiative, Office of Early Childhood goals include helping programs maintain relationships with their students and families; establishing workable, remote-learning schedules that suit individual families; and determining the most effective tools for connecting remotely.

“When families don’t have the technology or connectivity to actively engage, it’s a missed opportunity for all of our young learners,” Gozemba said. “There are many, many statewide partners who are committed to the success of this ambitious effort. We have an obligation to help our young children thrive and learn, in spite of the challenges they – and their families – are facing during this incredibly difficult period.”

To learn more about the GEER Grant and its impact on young children and their families, contact Diane Gozemba at dgozemba@eastconn.org.

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