AUGUSTA — Maine Community Foundation (MaineCF) is partnering with the Maine Department of Education to ensure that adult learners have the technology they need to continue their studies, according to a news release.
“Adult education programs are vitally important and are successful because they provide adult learners with a more flexible schedule to fulfill their education needs anytime during the year,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “The need for these devices to help them continue this important work is critical and the DOE is extremely grateful to MaineCF for its generosity in providing this much-needed funding to Maine’s adult education programs.”
A grant of $75,000 from MaineCF will fund laptops for 56 adult education programs to allow students to remotely complete their high school equivalency or workforce training programs.
The partnership is based on the mutual belief of MaineCF and Maine DOE that better access to educational opportunities will help improve the quality of life for Maine people, the release stated.
“While much attention has been given to Pre-K to 12 schools in Maine, adult education programs are a key support for Maine’s most at-risk students and workforce development to strengthen Maine’s economy,” the release read.
The shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility and fragmentation of technology access in Maine. The progress of many adult education students has been stalled by their inability to participate in online classes. MaineCF hopes that closing the technology gap will help adult education students complete their programs and continue their path to lifelong learning.
“Adult Education students already are facing significant barriers in their pursuit of education,” noted Cherie Galyean, MaineCF director of strategic learning and staff member behind the foundation’s Access to Education strategic goal area. “MaineCF does not want technology to be one of those barriers. Our hope is that this grant will help address the problem of digital inequity and help adult learners continue on their path to success.”
MaineCF worked with Maine DOE’s Adult Education team to survey the adult education programs in Maine and found technology access was a barrier that needed to be addressed.
“Though adult education programs quickly transitioned to remote learning, students without computer devices were unable to continue,” said Dr. Gail Senese, Maine DOE director of adult education. “As a result, hundreds of students enrolled in high school equivalency and workforce training programs were unable to earn their credentials, college transition learners were cut off from classes preparing them for postsecondary admission, and English language students were left isolated. The advocacy of Maine Community Foundation for adult learners is demonstrated in a generous donation, resulting in the acquisition of 375 devices, including laptops and Chromebooks, that local programs will be able to provide to the most in-need students.”
School and daycare center closings also have impacted adult learners who need flexible learning schedules as they care for their children. Adult education programs have expanded their capacity to provide remote instruction to ensure that learning can continue, regardless of schedule or location. But access to technology remains critical for these students.
The Department of Education is expected to deliver the laptops to adult education providers regionally by the end of the month to be distributed as soon as possible to students with the greatest need.