LeBron James continued his commitment to Akron schools Monday, donating $280,000 in Samsung tablets, which will be used by roughly 700 students in the Wheels for Education program.
The tablet computers, gifted by the LeBron James Family Foundation, will be used during the day to provide reading intervention for some 670 third-graders who must read at grade level or risk being held back at the end of the school year as part of the state’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
“The tablets will be used to push those kids ahead,” said Desiree Bolden, director of Akron’s after-school programming.
“Grateful” for the added technology, Bolden announced that Sedco Publishing has agreed to create online libraries for middle school and, eventually, high school students, who will be given a password to remotely access e-books with the tablets at no charge.
Board member Tim Miller cautioned that because the tablets cannot be taken home, many students without Internet access could be left out.
Bolden said local brick-and-mortar libraries are coordinating usage for those students.
The board also accepted two $10,000 grants from Dominion energy company: one for the National Inventors Hall of Fame program and another for Akron schools’ Closing the Achievement Gap program. Both ventures use a hands-on methods to teach math and science.
Summit County organizations, in all, received $47,000 of the $100,000 gifted to all Ohio organizations this year.
Also attending the board meeting was Patricia Simmons, president and CEO of the Akron Zoo.
Simmons asked the board to support the upcoming seven-year, 0.8-mil property tax levy on the Nov. 5 ballot. By doing so, the board agreed to allow zoo officials to place yard signs on all school property throughout the city.
The levy, on its second renewal, would continue to cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $23 a year. The levy first passed in 2000. Simmons said the additional revenue has allowed the zoo to answer the public’s demands: cleaning up the bathrooms and adding amenities, as well as adding animals and other attractions that have nearly tripled attendance.
“It’s only been in the last decade that it’s started to thrive,” said Simmons. “And it’s thrived because of this community.”
Simmons let loose an armadillo named Daisy, who scampered through the board room to garner support for the levy. “Daisy is hoping you will vote for Issue 3,” she told the board.
Akron board President Jason Haas endorsed the levy, saying that the zoo is a “strong partner” that hosts the Back to School Backpack Adventure, during which Akron area students received a free backpack over the summer. The zoo also provides field trips for 25,000 kids a year, many of them Akron students, Haas said.
The last to visit the board meeting Monday was Andy Davis, a traffic signal engineer for the city of Akron.
Davis asked the board to support the Safe Routes to School program. The program requires participation from school principals and officials to gather student data, such as home addresses. Board members said addresses would be submitted without identifying students.
The program is staffed by personnel from the University of Akron and funded by the city of Akron, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority. It begins this fall as Davis works with school administrators, parents and community stakeholders to map out the various routes, in some cases 2 miles long, that children walk to school.
Davis said the study of those routes would determine unsafe sidewalks and crossings, which would be documented and presented to the state for further funding next year.
The Safe Routes to School Program in the Cincinnati school district resulted in $1 million in infrastructure improvements and $300,000 for programming for students to learn the health benefits of safely walking or biking to school, Davis said.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.