St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page announced on July 23, 2020 that he would designate $4 million in federal CARES Act funding to the St. Louis County Library to establish a Digital Equity Initiative to help young people continue their education virtually. The funds will be used to provide Chromebooks, wi-fi hotspots, and virtual tutoring services to students and school districts in St. Louis County.
COVID-19 has forced many to transition to e-learning, telehealth, and remote work opportunities, and for many, lack of access to internet access has had a devastating effect. In St. Louis County, approximately 1 in every 7 households does not have broadband access. This digital divide disproportionately impacts students in working families and students and families of color, and can exacerbate other disparities–including health disparities.
The $4 million in federal CARES Act will be used to purchase wi-fi hotspots, Chromebooks and accessories, and access to live online tutoring for kids K-12. The Library will work with local school districts to distribute the devices.
St. Louis County Library Director Kristen Sorth said, “We are grateful to St. Louis County for their generous support in helping address digital equity in our region. Providing students with digital access will give them the tools they need to be successful in the coming school year."
St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page said, “We are proud to partner with St. Louis County Library to provide wider access to virtual learning during this unprecedented time. We must do all we can to provide a safe education for all our children.”
St. Louis County Library is part of the COVID-19 Regional Response Team. As the Lead Agency for Remote Learning and Technology, the Library has worked with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, area superintendents and educators, community partners and the Nine Network to identify new ways to assist area families during the pandemic. In April 2020, St. Louis County Library distributed 221 PBS Kids Playtime Pads to Ritenour and Hancock Place School Districts. Each device came preloaded with PBS content, including video clips, songs, educational games and apps, and did not require internet access. In 2019, the Library provided 100 wi-fi hotspots to students at Ritenour High School.
Media inquiries about the Digital Equity Initiative should be directed to Jennifer McBride, St. Louis County Library Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-994-3300 ext. 2250.