Local church helps provide Chromebooks for East Side Elementary students
Posted on 08/24/2020
Photo: Diego Simon Geronimo, a fifth-grader at East Side, enjoys learning with his Chromebook.Learning at home using technology has been a challenge for schools and families as everyone adapts to operating in a new learning arrangement during the pandemic. At East Side Elementary School, the situation has become much more manageable thanks to a $32,500 donation to the school from the Church of the Good Shepherd to purchase needed Chromebooks. The school was able to buy an additional 147 Chromebooks to move closer to one device for every child at East Side Elementary.

“This year, more than ever, student access to a device for virtual and remote learning is critical,” said Greg Wilkey, principal at East Side Elementary. “Thanks to the generosity and our on-going partnership with the Church of the Good Shepherd, every East Side student in first through fifth-grade will now have a Chrome Book.”

When the parishioners of The Church of the Good Shepherd began its partnership with East Side Elementary four years ago in conjunction with Chattanooga’s 2.0 initiative, no one at the church knew what to expect and what their role may be in helping to educate children in the community.

“As soon as we walked through the school’s front door, we were hooked,” exclaimed Bena Devaney with Church of the Good Shepherd. “East Side welcomed us with kindness and gratitude, and as our involvement grew, the relationship became very personal between our members and the school’s staff, faculty, and students. We discovered that we needed them as much if not more than they needed us.”

The church had worked with East Side Elementary before the pandemic to provide food for children and families who were food insecure in partnership with the Chattanooga Food Bank. As the partnership grew the church participated in various other projects to benefit the school and the community. The arrival of COVID-19 brought a tremendous shift in needs at the school to help children learn through remote instruction. Suddenly, every child needed access to a computer. East Side’s principal, Greg Wilkey, is a tremendous advocate for his students, and he reached out to Good Shepherd to see if the church could assist in obtaining 100 Chromebook electronic learning devices for the first-grade students at East Side.

“After the parish was made aware of this goal, the fundraising response was immediate because of our love for this community,” Devaney added. “When the coronavirus forced our in-person worship services to cancel, our theme became `love your neighbor,’ and East Side’s situation gave us an opportunity to put our words into action.”

“Words cannot express my gratitude,” Wilkey said. “The incredible gift to our children by the Church of the Good Shepherd has lifted a tremendous burden from my mind and will have a powerful impact on teaching and learning here at East Side.”

“We are so thankful the East Side students will be able to continue their caliber of learning safely at home, if necessary, during this difficult health crisis,” concluded Devaney. “But mostly, Good Shepherd looks forward to going back through those front doors at East Side Elementary and being with our friends in person!”

Chromebooks help children learn in the HCS at Home program and at times when students who participate in in-person learning in the school classroom are required to learn at home during a hybrid schedule or when a school must close due to a COVID-19 positive case on the school campus. The HCS at Home program is new and provides parents a choice in how their children learn for the 2020-2021 school year. The virtual learning program keeps the family and children connected to the home school the students have been attending but allows them to learn from home.

Photo: Diego Simon Geronimo, a fifth-grader at East Side, enjoys learning with his Chromebook.