Fulfill needs of virtual schooling with these free or low-cost metro resources

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RAYTOWN, Mo. — Raytown is the latest metro school district to announce it will start the school year online. Many districts are working to provide families with laptops and WiFi hotspots, but not all will be able to equip every student with what they need. 

Thankfully, there are some great resources that can help families get connected.

“We really try to refurbish everything we get and you know put it back out in the community,” said Carlos Salinas, with PCs for People.

The West Bottoms warehouse for PCs for People, previously known as Connecting for Good, is a very busy place these days.

Certified crews wipe out data in donated computers, then rebuild the PCs and add needed software.  The computers are sold starting at just $30. With thousands of students now being required to start school online this fall, the demand for devices is skyrocketing.

“We’re seeing the urgency is even greater now. Families who before maybe didn’t take it so seriously, are starting to call us,” said Tom Esselman, CEO of PCs for People Kansas City.

But the challenge, with many businesses working remotely, is that computer donations have fallen significantly. And at the same time, a new survey finds families in Kansas City area charter schools alone need 1,500 devices and more than 5,100 students need reliable internet.

“If you have an organization, work for an organization or know someone that’s part of an organization that has retired IT assets, computers available to donate, you can make a difference right now by contacting us,” said Esselman.

If you need help with a better internet connection, check out non-profit EveryoneOn. Low-income households and those who already qualify for federal subsidies may be eligible for internet plans from major service providers, for as little as $10 a month.

Once students return, families may also need help navigating online learning.

“We don’t want this to be something temporary because we know even if the pandemic, hopefully, ends eventually, that the damage and learning loss that occurred during this time will have lasting impacts, so in the fall when classes are online, or students return to classrooms, teachers may not know how to deal with this many different students on this many different levels,” said Zoya Surani, CovEd.Org public relations manager.

Zoya Surani is a Harvard neuroscience major and education minor. She’s part of a group of college students who created the website CovEducation this spring.  The non-profit’s helped match more than 3,000 college mentors with K-12 students nationwide, offering completely free mentoring and tutoring. You can search by grade level and subject and get matched with someone ready to help.

“Right now we have hundreds, close to 1,000 mentors looking for mentees.  So if anyone needs a mentor right now, that’s definitely somewhere they can go,” Surani said.

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