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COVID-19

Teachers turn to crowdfunding for pandemic supplies

DJ Cashmere Oct 2, 2020
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Teachers need supplies for remote learning: headphones, laptops, tablets, cameras. They also need safety equipment for in-person learning: air purifiers, face masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
COVID-19

Teachers turn to crowdfunding for pandemic supplies

DJ Cashmere Oct 2, 2020
Heard on:
Teachers need supplies for remote learning: headphones, laptops, tablets, cameras. They also need safety equipment for in-person learning: air purifiers, face masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
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Across the country, students are back in school — some in-person, some remote. Parents are often asked for donations of supplies like pencils and markers to help stock classrooms. This year, a lot of teachers also need pandemic-related supplies.

Kameron Oldroyd has been teaching middle school in Utah’s Jordan School District for two decades. But he’s never started a year like this.

He checks his students’ temperatures and provides them with hand sanitizer as they enter his seventh-grade tech and engineering class. It’s a hands-on course. But because of COVID-19, his students can’t share supplies. So he’s trying to buy everyone their own safety glasses and vinyl gloves. He also said he needs extra electronics equipment.

“Our principal right now is amazing,” Oldroyd said. “Anything we need, she tries her best. But budgets this year are just wonky as all get-out.”

So he’s turned to online crowdfunding. He’s trying to raise more than $3,000 using a website called DonorsChoose.

He’s not alone. Nearly a million teachers have tried crowdfunding for their classrooms over the last twenty years, according to Brett Lee, a professor at Texas State University who has studied the practice.

But recently, teacher crowdfunding needs have changed. “The supply requests during the pandemic are in two categories,” Lee said.

Teachers need supplies for remote learning: headphones, laptops, tablets, cameras. They also need safety equipment for in-person learning: air purifiers, face masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers.

In August, DonorsChoose said it got more than 12,000 requests for items like these. And teachers are crowdfunding on other sites, too.

Often, those teachers work in schools with high economic need, Lee said. “We’re seeing them say, ‘Hey, my kids have the right to be healthy and to be safe. Even in the midst of the pandemic. Regardless of their socioeconomic background,’” he said.

It’s not easy to fundraise while teaching in-person, teaching remotely and trying to stay safe. “I go home way more tired,” said Oldroyd. “I’ve been staying way later.”

Oldroyd teaches five subjects to more than 200 students. He wants to make sure every one of them can focus on learning safely this year.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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