The educational community at the Glendale Unified School District’s three middle schools received quite the welcome-back boost when more than 3,000 Samsung Chromebooks — one for each student and teacher — were delivered recently to kick off the 2020-21 school year.
The schools were selected earlier this year to join Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, an educational initiative sponsored by Verizon that targets under-resourced middle schools across the country. As part of the program, Roosevelt, Toll and Wilson Middle Schools have been provided with a comprehensive education package that includes a Chromebook for every student and teacher, a data plan for up to four years on each device, access to curricula that provides a personalized learning experience for students and professional development for teachers. A full-time technology coach in each school, partially funded through Verizon Innovative Learning, partners with teachers to provide ongoing support to integrate the technology in classroom instruction. The program is also made possible by Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization originated by the U.S. Congress in 2008 to improve technology in education.
“The Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program will give our students the capacity to expand their digital literacy and continue learning beyond the classroom, while empowering teachers to guide them along the way,” said Glendale Unified Superintendent Vivian Ekchian in a statement. “We are very excited to partner with Verizon Innovative Learning and Digital Promise to provide this opportunity for our students and teachers.”
The market value of the donation is more than $5.4 million, according to the GUSD.
The district’s three middle schools are among 110 new schools joining Verizon Innovative Learning for the 2020-21 school year, bringing the program to more than 260 middle schools nationwide.
The first day of school for the GUSD was Aug. 19, with the technology rollout taking place during Welcome Week, which began on Aug. 24 and included the distribution of textbooks as well as materials to assist students with distance learning. The district began the school year under distance learning guidelines until the Los Angeles County Health Department deems that the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided enough to allow for larger congregations.
The new equipment is a hit with GUSD families. Nabalungi Anderson, a nurse and mother of two students at Toll Middle School, is pleased with the new Chromebooks, which were distributed to her son, Garvey, an 8th-grader, and daughter Shabazz, who is in the 6th grade.
“They are very useful,” said Anderson, whose husband, Shahid, went to the school to collect the materials. “We purchased our own Chromebooks previously, but the ones provided by the district this year are amazing. They have their own internet and there aren’t as many glitches. This will expedite their education, since they are still learning at home.”
Nabalungi Anderson explained that the new Chromebooks are also outfitted with a stylus pen that allows the user to write directly on the screen and facilitates signatures from parents and students.
Administrators are also on board.
“Our students were so excited to be a part of this great program and were thrilled with the devices, which include a Verizon data plan,” said Kyle Bruich, principal of Roosevelt Middle School. “Our teachers and staff are proud to partner with Verizon Innovative Learning to be able to help increase student achievement, confidence and opportunities for success in their future. This program also provides our teachers with professional development through the whole process, which has lowered anxiety for teachers and created stronger opportunities for our students, especially in our distance learning environment.”
Narek Kassabian, principal of Wilson Middle School, shared the enthusiasm. “As each student picked up a laptop bag, charger and laptop, there was a sense of anticipation and excitement,” Kassabian said. “I could tell that my students were eager to use their new devices. Families were happy to learn that each device comes equipped with the Verizon data package plan.”
Verizon’s program is aimed at Title 1 middle schools and “addresses barriers to digital inclusion,” according to a statement from Verizon. Title 1 is the nation’s largest federally funded educational program, which provides supplemental funds to districts to assist schools with the highest student concentrations of poverty to meet educational goals. Verizon’s program is available to schools with a student base where at least 40% come from low-income families.