Charlotte-Mecklenburg School teachers on special assignment to get students connected

Updated: Sep. 7, 2020 at 5:10 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) teachers are banding together to create and sell T-shirts to help students get connected.

The district says at the beginning of this school year more than 16,000 households with a CMS student in it lacked connectivity.

CMS Foundation wants to raise $3.2 million for its “Connect for Tech” Campaign.

The money will provide WiFi for a year for every household that has a student who has received a hot-spot device from the district.

CMS teachers want to do their part and help with this assignment.

“We started talking about t-shirt ideas,” CMS teacher Rae LeGrone said. “We’re all full-time teachers, so we don’t have a lot of time, but we kind of came across the notion that to make the most money for our children, we needed to do it ourselves. So we came up with a design and I created a screen print and we’re basically taking shifts, every day making shirts.”

LeGrone, who has been a CMS teacher for about eight years and teaches visual arts at Olympic High School, says that about 25 percent of her students lack the connectivity or a computer for remote learning.

“They are desperately trying to get to class,” LeGrone said. “So I have students that are, you can tell they’re in cars. I’m assuming some of them are probably having to go travel to maybe a parking lot or an establishment that has free WiFi. They’re using their phones and they’re being very conscientious and really trying to get to class every day.”

Teachers have been working in shifts to complete this assignment.

So far, they have sold about 300 T-shirts and raised about $5,000 for the cause.

Teachers say this project is worth it and will change lives.

“It’s heartbreaking to think of the lengths that some of these students are having to go through just to show up to class,” LeGrone said. They’re hurting.”

People in the community applaud teachers for taking on this project.

They believe every little bit counts, but some insist to eliminate the digital divide - it will take more than teachers to chip in.

“It’s going to take a collaboration effort for everyone,” CMS Equity Committee Member Dee Rankin said. “From the government to community to organizations to families - to try and help those that are in need right now.”

Rankin is concerned this divide will hurt students academically. The fear is this digital divide will increase the achievement gap and leave many students behind.

LeGrone says teachers are shocked at how this initiative was well received.

She says people from all walks of life are purchasing the shirt and contributing.

She says about 15 percent goes for production - the rest goes to CMS Foundation.

Each shirt is screen printed by teachers - there is no mass production.

It is estimated it will take about $200 to provide students WiFi for the year. The T-shirt campaign has so far raised thousands.

“I never expected that much,” LeGrone said. “Especially in less than a week. The reason we’re doing it so low tech is because it is so much cheaper to do it that way so we can make sure that more money goes to the students.”

Teachers want this campaign to go for another three weeks so the resource can get to the students immediately. If you would like to purchase a T-shirt click here.

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