MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Distance learning is underway across the state, but plenty of students still don’t have the equipment they need at their fingertips.
Minnesota Computers for Schools has worked for decades to put refurbished technology in the hands of students across the state. The nonprofit is experiencing its highest demand on record coupled with a drastic drop off in donations.
“With everything that has gone out over the past few weeks, we are quite low,” said Tamara Gillard of MCFS.
Within a few weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, MCFS has placed about 800 computers and laptops through school districts statewide. At least another 50 families have called individually, desperate to get a device for distance learning to help their students.
“I’m taking dozens of calls each day,” said Gillard. “We have families who are struggling, English is a second language, they are trying to figure out the way to maneuver the school site and how to assist.”
Plus, the need has expanded for MCFS. The nonprofit is helping supply some college students and healthcare workers for the first time.
“We’ve worked with the Native American Community Clinic, they are trying to ramp up a process for telemedicine,” said Gillard.
All of this as the half the staff at the Minneapolis warehouse is furloughed and volunteers can no longer come into help in order to allow remaining staff to safely work several feet apart. At this point, they’re trying to get shipments out every two to three days.
As corporations have ramped up for employees to work from home, those organizations haven’t been cycling through technology. Thus that pipeline for computer, laptop and iPad donations has been cut off. If there’s ever a time get rid of old gadgets, it’s now.
“We need donations as fast as possible if we are going to be able to meet the need,” said Gillard.
The Department of Education points out that not all distance learning is e-learning. Plenty of districts in more rural areas are utilizing paper packets of school work.
In addition to clearing out the old technology you’re not using, MCFS says financial donations help a lot as well. That money can help with everyone from buying new devices to the shipping costs associated with getting computers shipped to where they are needed.
If you'd like to donate, you can visit Minnesota Computers for Schools' website.