HARTFORD, CT – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that a second philanthropic donor has stepped forward to help Connecticut’s school districts – particularly those that are under-resourced – employ remote learning methods as classes remain canceled statewide for an extended period due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Indra and Raj Nooyi have informed the governor that they plan to make a donation of high-quality, take-home books from Scholastic that will provide reading and writing instruction to more than 185,000 prekindergarten to 8th grade students while learning from home.
Students in prekindergarten through the third grade will receive four books per student plus a family resource guide. Students from fourth through eighth grades will receive three books per student and a family resource guide. The books are aligned with Connecticut state learning standards, and parents are encouraged to work with students at home to complete these exercises. Students will be able to keep the books indefinitely.
The donation is the second in as many days, as on Monday the Partnership for Connecticut, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Connecticut’s disengaged and disconnected youth and young adults access education and career opportunities, announced that it plans to donate up to 60,000 laptops to students from some of the state’s most under-resources high schools. The laptops will be targeted toward the state’s 33 Alliance Districts that serve significant populations of high school students who are eligible for free or reduce-price meals.
To lead the distribution of these donations, Governor Lamont and State Department of Education (SDE) Commissioner Miguel Cardona are creating the Governor’s COVID-19 Learn from Home Task Force, which will consist of several superintendents from across the state, including Paul Freeman (Guilford) and Nate Quesnel (East Hartford), who will serve as co-chairs, and Michael Connor (Middletown), Melony Brady Shanley (Winchester), Verna Ruffin (Waterbury), and Iline Tracy (New Haven), who will serve as members. Nick Simmons, Manager of Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Governor, and Desi Nesmith, Deputy Commissioner of SDE, will also serve as members. The group will be responsible for coordinating superintendents of districts that opt-in for the donations to ensure a safe and efficient distribution process of these critical learning materials to districts and families across the state.
“There are few things more important to me during the COVID-19 crisis than ensuring all of our students – in every district – continues receiving a high-quality education while at home and not one student is left behind,” Governor Lamont said. “That is why it is so encouraging that the Partnership for Connecticut is donating more than 60,000 laptops and the Nooyi family is donating these Scholastic books for home libraries, and I want to thank them for these generous gifts. During this difficult time, we need to make sure that remote learning is being done right, and our state is committed to working with each school district across the state and assist in their efforts to ensure that their needs are met to our greatest ability.”
The State Department of Education recently distributed a guidance packet to school districts that provides resources to support student learning during the COVID-19 crisis. Commissioner Cardona is urging every parent in the state to review its materials.
“When it comes to providing all of our students with opportunities for success, the saying ‘it takes a village’ is especially true now more than ever given the disruptions to learning caused by this pandemic,” Commissioner Cardona said. “To get through this time of crisis, we must come together as one educational community including stakeholders in and out of PK-12. We are so grateful to the Nooyi family, Scholastic, and the Partnership for Connecticut for their proactive willingness to step up and be part of the solution to ensure equity and access for our students most in need. Our focus now is distributing these learning tools in the safest, most efficient way possible which will require involvement of experienced, innovative educators making decisions in the best interests of our students and teachers. I am confident the superintendents appointed to our ‘Learn From Home Task Force’ are the right people for the job.”
Indra Nooyi is the former CEO of PepsiCo and currently serves as the co-director of AdvanceCT, a nonprofit organization that works to engage, retain, and recruit businesses and advance overall economic competitiveness in Connecticut. Her husband Raj is president of AmSoft Systems, a company that provides custom solutions and services in the areas of e-business, new media, and WAP solutions. They are residents of Greenwich.
“We strongly believe that our children are our future and nothing should interrupt their education,” Indra and Raj Nooyi said. “We are grateful to Scholastic for making these study materials available so quickly and hope our Connecticut schools can leverage these materials to provide uniformed and quality experiences to our students. Our daughters benefitted from a great Connecticut education. This is our way of paying it forward.”
“We are honored to partner with Governor Lamont and the Connecticut State Department of Education in their critical effort to support students and families at home during this unprecedented time,” Greg Worrell, President of Scholastic Education said. “The Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report has shown us that half of school-aged kids identify schools as a main source for books. Coming together quickly to ensure access to high-quality books at home when this access is diminished is an essential action that will strengthen learning-at-home experiences, as well as provide comforting opportunities to read together as a family.”
Mary Anne Schmitt Carey, President and CEO of The Partnership for Connecticut, said, “The Partnership for Connecticut is proud to play a small part in helping to ensure that low-income high school students in our highest need school districts are able to access distance learning opportunities during this unprecedented time and always.”
The distribution of laptops will prioritize high school students demonstrating the most need, however if the needs are met for these eligible high schools and there is remaining inventory and resources, then program eligibility may expand to include high schools beyond Alliance Districts where more than 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and laptop distribution will prioritize students demonstrating the most need.
Eligible districts and high schools may opt into this program on behalf of their students if student laptops are a need. Participating districts will retain ownership of the laptops to help close opportunity gaps and support future cohorts. They will also be required to determine their specific needs within the available inventory, develop and assume responsibility for device distribution and maintenance plans, and create a communications plan so that eligible high school students and their families have the information they need to participate in the program.
The Partnership for Connecticut and the State Department of Education are working with laptop distribution companies to ensure delivery of the devices as soon as possible. As the devices are in great demand nationwide, it is not expected that the entire amount will be received in one delivery but will likely come in several batches over the next month.
Scholastic material distribution
The Governor’s COVID-19 Learn from Home Task Force will coordinate with superintendents across the state and inform them of their ability to opt-in or opt-out of the Scholastic program. They will also be establishing a smooth, efficient, and safe distribution process so that the books arrive to schools in a timely manner, families receive proper communication, and the pick-up procedure abides by all social-distancing protocols.
It is anticipated that the Scholastic materials will be delivered to participating schools within two weeks.
Increased access to internet coverage for Connecticut residents
Governor Lamont said that the donated resources compliment recent announcements from telecommunications companies that will help an increasing amount of Connecticut residents obtain internet access through the COVID-19 crisis.
Virtually every internet provider in the state has signed onto the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge. This means that internet providers will:
- Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers due to an inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
- Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to COVID-19 disruption.
- Open all WiFi hotspots to the general public.
In addition to the connectivity pledge, certain internet providers are taking steps to cover additional residents in the state. For a list of offers that these companies are currently providing, click here.