November 10, 2020 by HCDE-Texas
Ninety computers found their way into the laps of Head Start teachers and family service providers as families returned to Head Start classes virtually this fall. The successful transition would not have been possible without the $1.2 million supplied by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act 2020.
The act provided $750 million for Head Start programs throughout the nation, and funding was distributed by formula based on each Head Start grantee’s funded enrollment.
Children at HCDE’s 14 Head Start/Early Head Start centers and five childcare partnerships in northeast Houston were able to return to school virtually because of the funding.
The CARES Act also funded software to support training and professional development for teachers and staff.
Finally, the funding provided personal protection equipment such as masks, gloves and cleaning supplies to 300 staff members, benefitting 1,060 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old in northeast Harris County.
“During the pandemic, we had to go to remote learning to meet the needs of our families,” HCDE Senior Head Start Director Venetia Peacock said. “When technology issues arose from having older computers which slowed by the new software, we knew we had a problem.”
Between Zoom, Microsoft Teams, a classroom management software called Dojo and other software and application downloads, the old laptops were strained. The laptops also supplied convenience so that desktop computers didn’t have to be transported to-and-from home to office.
“CARES Act funding couldn’t have arrived at a better time,” Peacock said.
Now that staff and students are back in the classroom in person, the laptops still provide flexibility in the event numbers rise and its necessary to go back to virtual instruction.
“The laptops allow us to move fluidly between in-person and virtual learning as classrooms or campuses are affected by COVID-19,” the senior director said.
Staff use their newfound technology skills to promote social distancing as they communicate with parents and other staff via Zoom and Teams.
“It’s a blessing to have our students and staff back, but we are now empowered to stay engaged with our families through virtual instruction if the numbers rise,” Peacock said.