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$1.3 million in CARES Act funding will go toward helping Howard County families with virtual learning

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Monday announced another allocation of federal CARES Act funding, this time $1.3 million for a countywide initiative to support children and families with virtual learning.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Monday announced another allocation of federal CARES Act funding, this time $1.3 million for a countywide initiative to support children and families with virtual learning.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced Monday another allocation of the federal funds the county received as part of the federal CARES Act amid the coronavirus pandemic.

At a news conference at the East Columbia 50+ Center, Ball said $1.3 million would be going toward HoCo STRIVES — Strategies to Reach an Inclusive Vision and Equitable Solutions — a countywide initiative to help children and families with virtual learning. The initiative is managed by the county Department of Community Resources and Services.

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Of the $1.3 million, $750,000 will go to the Howard County Scholars Program to provide in-person instruction to select middle school students; $450,000 will provide free internet for families in need and public Wi-Fi hot spots; and $100,000 will deliver free meals to those who cannot access the county’s food distribution centers.

“HoCo STRIVES was created to support our education outreach efforts in fostering an environment for ready and successful students,” Ball said in a statement. “When we created this vision, we could not foresee that it would also play this critical part in our response to a health crisis.”

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The Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center is administering the Howard County Scholars Program, which will offer free in-person education for some middle school students from September through December.

According to the county, the goal of the program is to alleviate child care burdens for vulnerable families, while giving students individualized education.

Seven Howard County Public School System middle schools currently participate in the program: Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills, Lake Elkhorn, Harper’s Choice, Elkridge Landing, Patuxent Valley and Dunloggin.

The Howard County Scholars Program consists of 12 students per class with an instructor, and coronavirus safety requirements will be followed. Students will receive meals, and the county will offer transportation, according to the release.

The second portion of the CARES Act funding was allocated to reducing the digital equity gap within the county. The $450,000 will fund 500 Wi-Fi hot spots and free internet service to 500 families across the county.

According to the county, nine additional internet access points have also been provided or expanded for free public Wi-Fi: Columbia Lakefront; downtown area of historic Ellicott City; Clarksville Commons; Long Reach Village Center; Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, in the parking lot off of Trotter Road; Gary Arthur Community Center, in the parking lot; George Howard Building, in the front courtyard near the entrance area of the building; Blandair Regional Park; and Kiwanis Wallace Park, near the back fields.

The last section of the funding, $100,000, will go to Howard County’s Roving Radish program to serve families who are unable to access other food resources in the county. The funding will provide free meal kits and grocery boxes to 55 families per week and subsidized meal kits to 212 families.

The Roving Radish program also recently moved into a new space in the Long Reach Village Center that will enhance the preparation and distribution of meal kits, according to the release.

“Improved internet access and technology to support learning, services that eliminate food insecurities and educational opportunities that overcome equity barriers will help to build upon the work we have done in this county over the last several months to help families support their children’s health, well-being and education,” schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said in a statement.

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