Washington County Schools

The Washington County School System has received a $100,000 state grant to support the district’s emphasis on the well-being of students and improving online connectivity under its Continuous Learning Plan.

The grant, which was allocated by the state Department of Education, will be used to enhance the system’s virtual learning opportunities. Specifically, the funds will be used to purchase 209 Kajeet Smartspots.

The grant also provides funds that will be used to supply wellness materials, including two teacher Edumotion licenses and the Committee for Children’s Social-Emotional Curriculum for students in grades K-5.

We asked Twana McKinney, Washington County Schools grant writer, to answer a few questions on how the grant funds will be spent.

How do the SmartSpots work?

They work as hotspots with additional filters to keep from connecting to unwanted websites. Similar to a cell phone hotspot, you turn on the hotspot and pick the GHz you wish to use.

On the Chromebook, you click on the Wi-Fi setting and look for Kajeet. The necessary passcode to connect is on the SmartSpot.

It is very user friendly.

Who will be eligible to receive SmartSpots?

Due to graduation requirement needs, eligibility is prioritized first to high school students with no internet access. Next, we prioritized elementary schools with the highest student populations that qualify as Title I eligible.

With this grant, we were able to provide internet access to 209 families out of 306 identified families without internet access.

How long can they be used?

The SmartSpots are under a 12-month contract with unlimited data. Up to five Chromebooks can connect to one device, so for example, a multi-student family with up to five devices only needs one SmartSpot for everyone to gain access to the internet.

what are teacher Edumotion licenses and the children’s social-emotional curriculum?

The state Department of Education provides a guide to assist the whole child with social and personal competencies. This resource includes awareness of oneself, social skills and how to work with relationships with others and develop responsible decision-making.

“Soft skills” are necessary for students to succeed in elementary and post-secondary grades. But right now, it is to help with the emotions the students are experiencing during this pandemic.

The “new normal” has created a different kind of stress in children that materials like Edumotion and Committee for Children Social Emotional Curriculum can help the school system address.

Soft skills are needed for students to succeed in post-secondary opportunities and career objectives.

The Edumotion online learning exposes students with various “World Dances” to learn for movement purposes in connection to academics and social-emotional learning.

Social and emotional learning is an integral part of education and human development.

How important are these items to virtual learning?

Since March, we realize that the pandemic has created a challenge within our school setting. Schools are providing these grant items to accommodate our community members with equitable access to a student’s curriculum and alleviate concerns families may have with virtual learning.

What else should parents and educators know about this grant?

The school system is fortunate to be awarded the grant to meet the needs of its community members. Also, this lets the school system’s family members know they are not alone in trying to figure out how to assist with their child’s educational experiences during this worldwide pandemic.