The CMS Foundation announced that it met the $3.2 million fundraising goal for its "Connect for Tech" initiative through a combination of private and public support. Private donors gave more than $2 million, while support from the City of Charlotte and the State of North Carolina helped address the remaining need for CMS. The foundation launched the "Connect for Tech" fundraising campaign in August to cover the cost of internet service for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) students in need of home connectivity support during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools distributed Chromebook laptops and iPads to students in grades K-12 at the start of the school year when buildings remained closed to COVID-19 risks. Based on analysis completed in partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, sixteen thousand households were estimated to need home internet access support for CMS students to fully engage in remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year. The school district committed nearly $1 million of state coronavirus relief funds to purchase mobile hotspot devices, but restrictions on usage prevented applying those funds toward purchase of internet service for the devices. The CMS Foundation set out to raise $3.2 million to cover the cost of twelve months of internet service for sixteen thousand hotspots.
As of October 12, more than nineteen hundred donors have supported the campaign for a total of $2,022,030 in private contributions. Those donations, combined with an investment of CARES Act funding from the City of Charlotte and new support the state in the form of four thousand hotspots with service, provide the resources needed to fill the estimated student internet connectivity gap in CMS.
"I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this community. Thank you to everyone who contributed. You've made it possible for CMS to respond to the ever-changing needs of families as the district continues to deal with the impact of the pandemic," said CMS Foundation Executive Director Sonja Gantt.
Individual donations have ranged in size from $5 to over $300,000, reflecting broad community support that included CMS students and staff, school and neighborhood associations, faith partners, foundations, and local businesses.
"The COVID pandemic has widened the digital divide in our community, but individuals and organizations have risen to the challenge, joining together in response to show how challenges can be overcome through unity of purpose," said CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston.
Families in need of home internet support are asked to reach out to their child's school to request a hotspot.
Additional donations to the CMS Foundation designated for "Connect for Tech" will be used to continue supporting student connectivity needs in CMS.