From Helen Kalvak Elihakvik in Ulukhaktok to Chief Julius in Fort McPherson and every school in-between, students in Grades 7-12 are now equipped with laptops to help them with their studies, completing a project several years in the making.
Beaufort Delta District Education Council assistant superintendent Devin Roberts said the school board had been eager to establish a digital connection for its students for some time, but the ongoing threat of Covid-19 and the possibility of a lockdown at any moment made the project a top priority.
“The idea predates Covid-19,” he said. “We were looking at the discrepancy in regards to access to education. With 21th century learning you need access to the internet and computers. Covid-19 just exasperated the problem for us, so we addressed.
“But recently as last spring we were trying to put all this together and get it in place.”
Initially, the project began with setting up Grade 10 students with laptops, with funding help from both the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Gwich’in Tribal Council. Both self-governments also kicked in funding to help BDDEC afford to set the remainder of high school students with laptops, and BDDEC covered the costs of supplying the junior high programs. In total, 684 laptops were purchased for the students.
Students use the laptops when they arrive at school and leave them on campus, though they can book the laptops out to help with homework or other school projects.
Having an online learning infrastructure in place not only helps improve the students’ digital literacy, noted Roberts, but also doubles as a contingency in the event a Covid-19 outbreak hits the north and forces another shut down of schools. With the laptops, school could continue on from home.
Roberts said the school board was overjoyed getting the laptops set up and thanked both the GTC and IRC for their contribution to the project.
“It was nice to see that it’s on the ground now. It’s taken some time to get all this in place,” he said. “We’re really excited to see this happen. We have to do this as an education body, given the Covid-19 context. We wanted to do this anyways, but now with Covid-19 we really want to make sure this happens.
“We should be on pace with any other school district across the country and most school districts have access to these types of things.”