Christian Relief Services: Closing the Digital Divide in Its Own Backyard

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BucknellBucknell Elementary School is located in the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the wealthiest counties in the country with a median household income of more than $100,000.

However, at Bucknell Elementary, a Title I school which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary,  three-fourths of the students are eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Free and Reduced Price Meals program and is 80 percent English Speakers of Other Languages.

The school has had recent successes in improving its accreditation standing, and is by all accounts a “rising star” of Title I elementary schools.

Bucknell students use computers in the classroom, but what about at home?

Christian Relief Services, headquartered in Fairfax County just a few miles from the school, selected Bucknell for a pilot program that will provide computers and home broadband Internet access to 121 students in grades 4 – 6, regardless of their economic circumstances.

Christian Relief Services is partnering with local Virginia State Delegate Scott Surovell, who has identified a donor, Don Rippert, willing to provide $25,000, who donated to Christian Relief Services to kick-start the effort.

Christian Relief Services added another $25,000 to match donations from potential community partners, to reach the budgeted $62,000 necessary for the effort.

Providing new laptop computers to students from low-income families will ensure equitable access to educational resources so these children will not be denied access to digital learning opportunities.

Christian Relief Services does not provide second-hand materials as a tenant of its charitable mission as we believe that all children, wealthy and poor alike, should be given equal access to new, high-quality materials.

To that end, in accordance with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) specifications, eligible students will receive new Dell Latitude 3150 laptop computers, procured at a cost of $350 each, through FCPS’ existing Request For Proposal specifications.

Windows software is deeply integrated into Bucknell’s existing structure and comes pre-loaded with approved education software which works seamlessly with FCPS Web-based curricula.

Students will be able to enjoy safe computing at home or any other location with FCPS’ “Always On” content filtering.

Christian Relief Services will create promotional materials in partnership with Del. Surovell who will organize a fundraising drive to recruit support from potential partners in his network of business partners in the community.

Christian Relief Services and FCPS are prepared to create a partnership to benefit the students at Bucknell Elementary.

The partnership provides several advantages:

  • FCPS will procure and own the laptops which meet existing FCPS specifications
  • FCPS will provide IT support and training to schools, teachers, students and parents
  • Laptops will be “leased” to students and their families, similar to textbooks
  • Bucknell will host a “Technology Fair” at the beginning of the school year where they will train parents and distribute the laptops to families

The pilot program also provides home broadband Internet to students at Bucknell through an existing partnership between FCPS and Cox Communications’ “Connect2Compete” program.

Normally, only families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or free meal families would qualify for the Connect2Compete program, leaving out the students qualifying for the reduced meals program or in neither program.

Cox has offered to open its Connect2Compete program to all the students in the pilot program and bulk bill Christian Relief Services at a cost of $120 per student, plus taxes and a one-time hookup fee for up to 98 households.

“Christian Relief Services is eager to participate in this pilot program to close the digital divide at Bucknell Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia,” stated Paul Krizek, Executive Director of Christian Relief Services.