By John Alexander
WINDSOR TERRACE — As students across New York City return to school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, remote learning devices are more essential than ever for their education. That’s why DeSales Media Group and the Catholic Television Network (which is a part of DeSales) are giving each child enrolled in a Catholic School an iPad or Chromebook plus free Internet access.
DeSales absorbs the roughly $1,100 cost of the mobile devices and only requests that the school families sign up for a $20 subscription to The Tablet.
Principal Linda Freebes at Ss. Joachim and Anne called the iPads a lifeline for her students and their families during the pandemic. “Ss. Joachim and Anne is extremely indebted to DeSales Media and The Tablet for the iPads donated to our school,” explained Freebes. “We have been able to use the technology to access different programs and for research projects. During the isolation period in the pandemic, we were dependent on DeSales Media to provide the iPads for remote learning.”
Peter Stamm, Technology Coach at Sacred Heart Glendale, agreed that DeSales’ distribution of the mobile devices has taken on added significance this year. “First of all, I think it was perfect timing looking back to have this grant program in place,” Stamm said. “I know it’s been around for a couple of years but it’s really expanded a lot during the last school year. To be able to be a part of it and to have these devices during the situation we found ourselves in was really awesome.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Tablet has not been available in the churches throughout the diocese. As a result, free trial subscriptions were sent out over the past few months. The goal of the program, which will end October 23, is for the families to extend their annual subscription for only $20. And The Tablet itself plays an important role for both parents and students. It now has a dedicated education reporter, allowing for even more coverage of local schools.
Subscribers also receive Tablet Jr., a monthly newspaper produced by the students of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Launched last school year, the newspaper has received much praise, and teachers are using it as a teaching tool in class. Stamm also stressed the importance of parish families receiving The Tablet this past spring and summer. “Receiving The Tablet subscriptions really helped a lot since we didn’t have church during the early parts of the pandemic. It’s one of the best ways to find out what’s going on in the church these days during the pandemic and beyond,” he added.
Nigel C. Pariagh, the father of fifth grade Sacred Heart of Glendale student Nyla C. Pariagh, said that the subscription to The Tablet, which allowed SHCA to receive the Chromebooks, was one of the best investments in Nyla’s education.
“The use of the Chromebook coupled with Google classroom has made her a better and more responsible student,” explained Pariagh. “I have noticed that she is actively keeping up with all her assignments on her own. Given the pandemic that we are in and being pushed into Google classroom, she has learned how to navigate the online environment much faster than I expected. The teachers at SHCA have made full use of this resource in the education of my child. I am very thankful for the partnership between The Tablet and the DeSales Media Grant Program to bring this resource to SHCA.”
Gina Krainchich, Director of Educational Media Services for DeSales Media, believes that the grant program has enabled a major transformation within the schools. “Last March, teaching transformed overnight and we are now in a position where personal computing devices are a necessity,” explained Krainchich.
“In the last four years, we have been able to grant over 10,000 devices to Academies and Schools. The grant includes a data plan for each device so we are able to meet the home connectivity divide head-on. Granting iPads and Chromebooks along with wireless infrastructure grants show our commitment to making our schools technologically positioned to meet the challenges teachers face today or three months from now,” Krainchich added.
Freebes explained that parents and guardians were especially grateful. “Without these devices, our students would not have been provided access to the Google Platform and Zoom classes. Our student body is from a low socio-economic community and help from De Sales and The Tablet has provided us with academic sunshine,” added Freebes.
Principal Margaret Tyndall of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy spoke on behalf of the teachers in her school and expressed her gratitude for the program. “Having the opportunity to receive iPads for Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn was an absolute blessing,” said Tyndall.
“Many of our students did not have iPads or desktop computers in their homes and did not have the means of acquiring these items.
It was difficult to conduct online classes when the main source of communicating was not there. I was delighted when these iPads were delivered to us and we could pass them on to our families.”
Stamm called the technology a lifesaver that has even added to an increase in enrollment.
“It allowed us to use many more tools to help so many students in different ways,” said Stamm. “In this situation, we’ve actually seen increased enrollment since we had the devices because the word of mouth has gotten out there that we were really ahead of the game. It has made my job as a coach much easier to know that everybody has technology, everybody has the ability to use it and that we can continue using it even while we’re in school.”
In his letter to the diocese families, Msgr. Kieran Harrington, president and chairman of DeSales Media, thanked subscribers and expressed his support for The Tablet. “It is my hope that you have enjoyed reading our award-winning newspaper, the only Catholic weekly in New York City; and that you will join us in our mission of spreading the Good News of Christ in our midst,” said Msgr. Harrington.
The iPads and Internet service for the students and teachers have become an essential part of the learning process.
“I honestly can’t say enough good things about the program and how it really has pushed us and helped us to move into 21st-century learning and into the future because the future came a lot faster than we thought it would,” said Stamm.
“And being able to be a part of this program is pretty exciting for us. We’ve really come to rely on these devices and I have to say that it’s really paid off. I’m obviously a huge fan of the program and just happy to be a part of it,” he added.