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More than half of the students in 27 of 69 Louisiana school districts lack access to a school-issued or personal laptop computer or tablet, a recent survey by the Louisiana Department of Education shows.

That presents significant challenges to at-home learning — the only viable option during the COVID-19 pandemic — for 200,000-plus of the state's students.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting hopes its new project, Bridging the Gap, will fill this digital divide.

Coordinating with the Louisiana Department of Education, the comprehensive and enhanced distance-learning education plan is designed to support all K-12 Louisiana educators, students and families. 

"It is intended as a comprehensive combination of free high-quality, educational resources for ALL students in Louisiana, broadcast over-the-air and on digital platforms," a news release says.

The first component is designed for all Louisiana school districts, private, parochial and homeschool environments with standards linked, grade-level specific digital and broadcast resources.

The other element focuses on Louisiana school districts and schools with limited computer or internet access, featuring broadcast resources and teacher training.

The initiative includes summer sessions designed to reach all students regardless of access to technology, help make up lost instructional time due to COVID-19 social distancing, and to prepare students for the 2020-2021 school year.

The LPB educational programming sessions will run from noon to 3 p.m. (Great Minds’ Eureka Math instruction videos for grades K-5 and Illustrative Math instruction videos for grades 6-8 and algebra) and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (science and history programming) weekdays during July. These sessions will air on LPB’s main broadcast channel statewide, and on WYES and WLAE in New Orleans.

There also will be teacher and caregiver training on how to use LPB's free digital resources to prepare students for returning to school this fall.

The virtual training will teach best practices in distance learning (broadcast and digital) each week for teachers to learn how to best utilize the PBS LearningMedia and Discovery Education digital media libraries. Both digital libraries have free, distance learning platforms that allow teachers to search for standards-linked content by subject and grade level, with features that allow teachers to import class rosters, and engage and assess student progress. Teachers can work together to build grade level resources that can be shared.

"LPB can work directly with Louisiana school district representatives to create customized lesson plans according to local standards and goals," the news release also says. "Furthermore, LPB is offering free tools like LPB Bright by Text, a free, localized, customized, direct-to-parent texting service that can be used by local school districts to contact parents and caregivers directly via text with local resources, information and age appropriate information."

For more details and schedules, go to lpb.org/bridgingthegap.