CETF Extends Partnerships To Help Planada Elementary School District To Establish A Digital Community

In January of this year, students and teachers at the small, rural Planada Elementary School District (PESD), still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, faced another crisis:  massive rainstorms and flooding had eroded the district’s access to basic technology needed for teaching, learning and connecting with families.  Superintendent José González said, “The Digital Divide has always been a challenge for our families, and this disadvantage has grown since the January flooding.  So many student and family learning activities were disrupted.”  That’s when the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) stepped in to help.

Together with Comcast, CETF provided a $15,000 grant for the PESD to replace 3 laptop carts and purchase 40 Chromebooks for their students.   “Comcast is pleased to work with CETF to provide the tools and resources needed for students to succeed in the Central Valley,” said Walter Hughes, Vice President of Government Affairs for Comcast California. “This donation along with Comcast’s recent announcement of investing $4.5 million to bring our smart, fast, reliable high-speed broadband network—the Xfinity 10G Network—to Planada later this year is an important part of our overall efforts to increase digital equity and close the digital divide across the state.”

Sunne Wright McPeak, CETF President and CEO, who grew up in the Merced County in the rural community of Livingston, the hometown of Superintendent González, added, “It is a privilege to assist Planada by joining with others who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley to invest in the current generation of future leaders.”

“This is a wonderful example of a public-private partnership in service of rural schools, students, and families,” said Abel Guillén, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction at the California Department of Education (CDE).

Soon, CETF will assist the district in successfully driving awareness and checking the eligibility of PESD families to apply for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides a monthly $30 subsidy towards Internet service.

In addition to these activities, PESD will receive support from School2Home, an education program sponsored and managed by CETF.  School2Home will provide guidance, tools, and training to help the district rebuild its technology program, equip teachers with critical professional development, and build family confidence with technology through digital literacy, digital safety, and home-school communications workshops.  “We look forward to helping PESD teachers and staff optimize their use of technology to accelerate learning and engage families. Devices and connectivity are essential but educators need guidance on effectively using these tools to maximize the impact on student outcomes,” said Agustin Urgiles, Executive Manager, School2Home.

Dr. Ben Duran, CEO of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium and President Emeritus of Merced College, and a native of Planada who grew up in Merced County at the same time as McPeak also observed, “This collaboration among CDE, CETF, and Comcast to ensure Planada students have technology and their parents benefit from School2Home is a prime example of how investing in education makes a difference because it was made possible by ‘Valley Kids’ getting a good education and being able to give back to their home community.”


About California Emerging Technology Fund

CETF is a statewide non-profit foundation with a mission to close the Digital Divide in California.  CETF provides grants to non-profit community-based organizations (CBOs) to assist low-income households in adopting broadband and becoming digitally proficient.  School2Home www.School2Home.org is the signature education initiative of CETF that helps Title I schools integrate technology into teaching, learning, and parent engagement to close the Achievement Gap.  For more information, please visit www.cetfund.org.  For ACP information, please visit www.InternetForAllNow.org

Photo:  PESD Superintendent González, CETF President and CEO McPeak, and Dr. Duran conferring at the California Department of Technology Broadband For All, Digital Equity, and BEAD Regional Workshop at Merced College on April 14, 2023.