A young student works in her classroom on an iPad donated to the schools. COURTESY BEAUFORT COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

Beaufort County School District’s youngest students can now do the same things their older classmates have been doing for the past year: use technology to complete lessons and work with their teachers.

Thanks to $54,000 in donations from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and $15,000 from the Coastal Community Foundation, 753 students in the county’s pre-kindergarten early childhood and special education programs received iPad mobile devices. United Way of the Lowcountry provided the young students with school readiness bookbags filled with supplies and materials that can be used to complete lessons and activities.

“These generous iPad donations have provided our Pre-K students with an additional learning tool, helping to prepare them for kindergarten and beyond,” said school Superintendent Frank Rodriguez. 

The gifts were driven by the emphasis both nonprofits place on education.

“The money was part of funds actually designated for K-12. The Pre-K didn’t have access to the devices,” said Jean Heyduck, vice president for marketing and communications for Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. “The largest portion of the donation was the $54,000 that went to buying an actual curriculum as well as the iPads for pre-kindergarten students.”

The curriculum is in both English and Spanish, and available 24/7, making it more convenient for parents who work during the day to help their students.

Heyduck said the money also provided additional assistance to the district. “It helped pay for internet connectivity for those families that were unable to access it,” she said, “and the funds also helped purchase cameras for Hilton Head High School that follow the instructors around the classroom while they are demonstrating lessons.”

The funds came from the foundation’s Lowcountry Community COVID-19 Response Fund of $600,000.

“The fund was established with the Community Foundation, and was initiated by the All Saints Episcopal Church outreach coordinator,” said Heyduck. “They were really the impetus, asking what they could do because they were worried about the lack of connectivity. The MLK Committee for Justice also got involved, as did Hargray. And then we had a number of donors and fund advisors who were coming to us, asking ‘What could we do?’ during this period of when the kids were having all these challenges.”

In BCSD press release announcing the donations, Ashley Hutchison, the district’s director of readiness, said that pre-K teachers will send interactive activities through the iPads to students, and parents can also use the devices to communicate with teachers. Parents can use the technology to send videos, photos and notes to show how their students have completed the assignments. 

“All Pre-K students – those in face-to-face instruction and those whose parents have chosen virtual instruction – will benefit,” said Hutchison.

According to the release, the district already was one of only a handful of South Carolina school systems offering one-to-one computer access to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Coastal Community Foundation fulfilled a BCSD grant request also through its COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund.

“The grant was to support the purchase of iPads and the pre-kindergarten digital curriculum, Creative Curriculum Cloud, for the Virtual Preschool Program,” said stewardship and events officer Gloria Duryea. “The technology will help ensure every child continues to learn and excel during the 2020-21 school year. While most of our work at this time is virtual, we still operate at 100% capacity to serve the communities in our nine-county service area, including Beaufort County.”

The Coastal Community Foundation has awarded more than $600,000 in grants to nonprofits serving this region through its COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund.

Community Foundation of the Lowcountry serves Beaufort County, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper Counties. The Coastal Community Foundation has offices in North Charleston, Beaufort and Murrells Inlet to serve nine counties: Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton, Hampton, Jasper, Beaufort, Horry and Georgetown. United Way of the Lowcountry provides support to Beaufort and Jasper counties.

For more information about these organizations and their COVID-19 relief programs, visit cf-lowcountry.org; coastalcommunityfoundation.org; and uwlowcountry.org.

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.