New Castle County offers schools $4.3 million in distance learning grants

Red Clay superintendent Dorrell Green said grants could help families with internet connectivity and other issues. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Red Clay superintendent Dorrell Green said grants could help families with internet connectivity and other issues. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

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With all five public school districts in Delaware’s New Castle County starting school with remote learning only for at least six weeks, educators are trying to figure out the best way to get kids the tools they need to learn from home.

So to help students and teachers navigate the new landscape, the county government is offering $4.3 million in grants from its $323 million federal coronavirus relief award.

That’s welcome news to Dorrell Green, superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District, the largest in Delaware with 17,000 students.

Green said the district will likely seek money to help children access the internet for Zoom and other online learning methods. He said surveys have shown that to be a pressing need for many families.

“The majority of our schools all have a need, it goes district-wide, especially as we look at WiFi,’’ Green told WHYY News. “You’ve got about 400 families that are spread out across the district that had identified some bandwidth, WiFi connectivity issues.”

County Executive Matt Meyer says a school with 500 kids can get $25,000. He’s a former teacher and says money can be spent on devices, software, internet service and more.

“Distance learning is a completely different ballgame. You need a whole different set of resources,’’ Meyer said. “Teaching in a hybrid class where you have some students in front of you and some students sitting at home online, that’s a challenge.”

Kimberly Reyna won’t have her second-grade students in class to start the school year but hopes to be able to send then “little prizes” in the mail as an incentive to be engaged in online learning. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Kimberly Reyna, who teaches second grade at Richardson Elementary, envisions using the money to give rewards to her pupils.

“Like little prizes to keep them engaged,’’ she said. “Show that I care. Do all the work and you are going to get something.”

Asked what she might offer, she said, “Maybe little tattoos. Something I could send easily through the mail and not spend 5 or 6 dollars on every package.”

Other ways the county is using its federal relief money include COVID-19 testing and housing and food assistance. Last week, the county announced plans to offer $10 million to community groups working to reduce the racial disparity in cases of the virus.

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