One problem many schools faced during the COVID-19 pandemic was a shortage of technology. Sequoyah Public Schools was no exception.
“We had to work with what we had,” Director of Technology Jennifer Bacon said. “There wasn’t an option.”
Bacon said some of the problems they ran into was a lack of internet access in the homes and a lack of equipment — some students were even completing school work on their cell phones.
“We’re trying to help where we can,” she said.
Grand Lake Mental Health Center officials saw SPS's need and donated 348 computers.
“We’re incredibly grateful,” SPS Superintendent Dr. Terry Saul said. “It’s probably the single largest equipment donation we’ve every gotten.”
Dr. Saul said these computers are a game-changer for teachers and students.
“There’s no way we could ever afford 300 laptops in one sitting,” he said. “We certainly are grateful. Our vision is to instill the love of learning in kids because we think if they leave here loving to learn then they’ll be learners for the rest of their loves. We certainly know these devices are going to help that in a tremendous way.”
GLMHC conducts a system refresh and gets new equipment every three to five years. It was able to donate two models of the two-in-one Dell Inspiron Laptop.
Josh Cantwell, GLMHC Chief Operating Officer, said several staff members have kids at SPS and was aware of the schools goal to go one-to-one in terms of technology for each student and teacher.
“By providing these machines to Sequoyah Public Schools, it provides them a leg up, not only when it comes to distance learning during these uncertain times, but also when it comes to teaching those necessary skills and technological uses for the next level of their education and future employment,” he said.
Cantwell said GLMHC is a certified community behavioral health center that focuses on overall wellness.
“So, that’s overall wellness of the people we serve, but also the overall wellness of the community,” he said. “When were talking about rural schools, we know that their resources aren’t as strong as some of the other schools. When we can help promote the education wellness, then that meets that mission.”
Bacon said they have a blended learning environment at SPS.
“This is going to help our teachers better prepare for when they’re distance learning, it’s going to help our students in the classroom and possible students at home,” she said. “Not everyone has the technology, so we’re going to try and help out in all areas where needed.”
Bacon said they will start be giving each teacher a laptop — so they can have them over the summer to prepare.
“This will make a great impact because so much more of our lessons are online and digital,” she said. “Not having enough devices to facilitate that has been and issue so this will help in that aspect.”
Chief Executing Officer of GLMHC Larry Smith said they have a responsibility, not only to improve the health of their clients, but improve the health of the community.
“We’re just flattered that we could use those computers in such a great way,” he said.
Cantwell said they have people working in each school system of the 12 counties they serve.
“We have counselors in every school system in those 12 counties to help promote the mental health of those students,” he said.