Rapidly Addressing Remote Learning Capabilities for Students in the City of Detroit with the Help of Stratix
A First-Person Perspective: Detroit schools were in need of devices and connectivity solutions to help their students bridge the digital divide. Stratix helped them create the program they needed.
By, Christine Burkette, former CIO of the Detroit Public Schools Community District and current CEO of Promising Integrations Consulting Firm, Inc.
Much is being made of the “digital divide” that puts students from households without access to broadband Internet connectivity and connected devices at a significant disadvantage. Here in the city of Detroit and the surrounding metro area, it’s been a concern for some time amongst school officials. In fact, we began an initiative back in 2017 to try to bridge that gap for the 300,000 students without devices, connectivity and support for virtual learning platforms. The plan was for 2020 to be the target date when all of our schools would close that gap.
Unfortunately, funding issues and other complications slowed our progress, leaving us in a vulnerable position when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and made widespread virtual learning an absolute necessity. We knew we needed to stand up an effective program to bridge this gap fast. More importantly, it needed to be sustainable for all involved. We just didn’t have the resources or partnerships to execute this quickly and at scale. We had to find a capable expert provider to help us put the pieces together.
A Path to a Better Way
To make this happen at scale, it was important to demonstrate viability in a pilot program. Even that, however, would involve a number of public and charter schools in the metropolitan Detroit area, overseeing tens of thousands of students. These students’ circumstances ranged from being in foster care to lower income families who couldn’t afford the devices and connectivity their children needed. Stratix offered thought leadership and partnership right out of the gate, helping me sort through options to identify multiple devices that we could obtain with flexible pricing. They also connected me with T-Mobile to provide hotspots to distribute across the schools to support the bandwidth requirements to stream virtual content.
The day-to-day experience was amazing, with them working collaboratively with us from end to end. I couldn’t believe how supportive they were and accessible via calls and texts. They helped me craft communication to send to all school leaders, then met with the superintendents and charter school owners’ multiple times to ensure they would receive the support they needed. Whenever we had a question, they were available.
Additionally, they offered after hours customer support to supplement the in-house support from the school district. That means when parents and students call in for maintenance issues or guidance on how to use the devices, they can always get someone on the line to help. They also provided a maintenance plan to repair and replace laptops and devices purchased through Stratix no matter what the ’accidental’ cause was, thereby reducing costs that would’ve far exceeded the school district budgets. They truly went above and beyond what I had anticipated for an information technology (IT) company supporting us with technology. After all, most school districts don’t have five or six IT support people – usually just one or two.
The best part of all is how they work with each one of the school district’s IT departments to make sure devices were imaged, provisioned and ready for students upon delivery. When students received them, the only thing they needed to do was to open up the box and turn it on. A step-by-step guide on how to log on to the district email is inside of every box. Once you open up your district email, it sends a notification to the IT department and you receive your Google invite to your classroom.
It’s simply amazing!
Currently 500,000 students lack the technology that’s needed to support a virtual platform in the state of Michigan. The 30,000 students that Stratix is supporting in this pilot is a small portion of that. Once we’re fully established, we hope to roll this out across the state of Michigan. Thanks to Stratix, we have a chance to close the learning gap that comes from the lack of support sometimes that’s needed for students with different learning styles and not having enough funding to support that in the schools.
Going forward, it will definitely be a game changer for education as we know it.
The Future of K-12 Education – Beyond the Four Walls
We chat with Christine Burkette, Former CIO of the Detroit Schools & current CEO of PICF, Inc., about how school districts can navigate the challenges of the modern classroom.Listen Now