LORAIN — A recently expanded program is providing parents and grandparents of Lorain Schools students with free computers and training to improve student achievement.
The program, run by Lorain County Community College, is an offshoot of a 2010 Connect Your Community program funded with federal taxpayer stimulus money to expand broadband access to county residents, according to City Councilman Tim Howard, D-4th Ward, the program supervisor.
The school program began in November 2012. On Jan. 14, the Board of Education approved its expansion district-wide to Garfield Elementary School, Longfellow and Gen. Johnnie Wilson middle schools, the Credit Recovery Academy and New Beginnings Academy.
The program is designed to help reduce the digital divide.
With 85 percent of Lorain Schools students living in poverty, having a computer at home is not a given. Howard said school principals are excited about the idea that parents will have more access and input in their children’s education through the program.
“The challenge has always been engagement,” said Howard, who would like to see the program expanded countywide. “This is one of the ways we’re trying.”
Among the lessons taught are how to access Power School, a link on Lorain Schools’ website that allows parents to monitor their children’s education. It includes attendance information, student’s grades and how much money they spend on lunch if they have a lunch card.
“A lot of people, they wait until they get their report cards to find out their kids have straight F’s and D’s,” instructor Tanell Jones told parents during a Feb. 12 class at Lorain High School. “You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to get your kid active in school. “
Jones said some parents are unaware of Power School.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “They spent all this time and money to come up with this site, so I have always stressed, stressed, stressed to use it.”
Beside the website, class topics included how parents can become more aware if their child is bullying or being bullied online. The class included a fictional video of a teenaged girl who commits suicide after being bullied face to face and online.
Howard said the online bullying aspect increases the chances of suicide and parents have to take responsibility for supervising children’s online activity.
“You have to ask the questions. And if you don’t like their answers, keep asking questions,” he said. “Make sure they understand you care.”
The class also discussed “sexting” in which children text semi-nude or nude pictures of themselves to each other on their phones. Howard said parents need to explain to their children the repercussions of sexting.
In Ohio, people younger than 18 can be charged with pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor or illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, according to Ohio Revised Code. Both are felonies.
“Explain it to them,” Howard said. “They’ll laugh, but if they get caught, trust me, they’ll be crying down at the County Jail.”
Parent William Ritter, 48, said his stepson, Justin Henline, an 18-year-old Lorain High School senior, is far more computer literate than him. Ritter said the more he learns from the class, the more he’ll be able to help his grandchildren who will be attending elementary school in a few years.
“It gives you more information than you knew before,” Ritter said. “It makes it easier for people that can’t afford a computer, plus they get educated at the same time.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lorain Schools’ parental engagement programming expanded district-wide in January.
- Participants attend weekly two-hour classes for a month, learning basic computer skills.
- Graduates receive a refurbished desktop computer. Graduates who pay $135 received refurbished laptops.
- The program’s goal is to provide 150 to 200 parents with computers and training annually. Participants must have Internet access to be eligible.
- The $60,000 annual program run by Lorain County Community College is paid with Title I money from the U.S. Department of Education. Title I money is spent to help children from poor school districts succeed.
- For more information on the program, call (440) 366-7292.
SOURCES: Lorain County Community College, Lorain Schools