When Portsmouth Christian Academy (PCA) announced the transition to distance learning on March 13, they knew that there would be unexpected challenges in bringing nearly 500 students up to speed with a remote education format. While the transition was mostly smooth for students who had their own computers and devices, there were some families who found the transition challenging because of a lack of hardware.
“No family expects that they’ll need the technology to support multiple children on laptops for many hours each day.” Mike Shevenell, Director of IT at Portsmouth Christian Academy says.
While many families had the necessary equipment, others found themselves in need of laptops, webcams, headsets, or other supplies that they wouldn’t normally have on hand. To meet the need in the community, Shevenell went online to see if the school could purchase some low to mid-range laptops to loan to families.
“Everything was sold out,” he explains.
PCA announced the need to its community of parents, grandparents, teachers, business partners, and donors, and the response was significant. Shevenell was overwhelmed by the willingness of families to help in various ways. The PCA community offered support in the form of services and expertise, as well as responding with donations of hardware or monies to put towards the purchase of new machines.
The donations of refurbished and new laptops, and monies to purchase new machines resulted in 25 machines available to support PCA’s distance learning initiative. Most of these machines will be temporarily loaned to PCA families while the school engages in remote education for the foreseeable future.
In addition, because of the generosity and willing response from the community, PCA launched the PCA Tech Exchange on March 27, designed as a shared space for families to ask for and offer support to each other directly in tech areas. The idea is that families can post a tech need or an offering, and individuals can respond to each other immediately to meet particular needs.
Mike Shevenell says, “This is a practical way in which we can serve one another in these exceptional times. One of my personal beliefs is that, ‘God supplies all our needs’. My lifelong journey has been to find the ‘how’ and ‘where’ that God has already provided. It is prayerfully opening my eyes. I realized that there was no way we could provide equipment and support to the entire PCA community – now scattered remotely around the seacoast area. But, this virus has not surprised our God.”
Head of School Mike Runey says, “Compassionate community is one of PCA’s core values, and this is one tangible way that we are seeing that core value lived out. PCA families have always had a reputation of being resourceful and generous. We’ve seen the community respond to the global health crisis with donations, prayer, and in practical ways—like sewing masks. The Tech Exchange extends that reputation of generosity and resourcefulness further by connecting families to each other to respond to needs in our school community.”