This is part of an occasional series of stories about TEP’s $500,000 donation to the COVID-19 Community Support Fund through the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona (CFSA) to help charities meet increased needs during the pandemic.

When schools shut down in the spring, the Amphitheater Unified School District worked quickly to loan out 1,600 laptops to students so they could continue home learning.

About 10 percent of the devices either came back broken or were never returned, leaving schools with a shortage as they prepare for online, remote learning to begin the upcoming school year.

To help fill that gap, CFSA recently provided a $20,000 grant, supported by TEP, to the Amphi Foundation to pay for repairs or replacements of the technology. The grant will pay for about 50 new devices.

“As we begin another school year remotely, one of our biggest priorities is addressing the digital divide in our community,” said Leah Noreng, Executive Director of the Amphi Foundation. “At a time when things are incredibly stressful and very heavy, it was wonderful to be able to share this positive news with our schools. We are so grateful for this assistance.”

The nonprofit group supports 21 schools in the Amphitheater district, which extends north from Grant Road in Tucson to the community of Catalina, including some of the region’s lowest-income neighborhoods.

In addition to providing devices, the district is working to ensure that students have WiFi access. At one school, just 40 percent of students have working WiFi at home.

While the donation helps address urgent needs during the pandemic, the investment will also continue after students return to the classroom.

“This is huge because technology is so expensive and it’s not just a one-time impact,” Noreng said. “When students get back, these devices will be used by hundreds of students over the course of the next several years.”

The grant is a continuation of TEP’s longstanding partnership with the Amphi Foundation, including helping at back-to-school shopping excursions for students, purchasing food boxes for families for Thanksgiving and supporting the foundation’s annual gala event to raise additional dollars for the district.

“This donation continues the strong philanthropic and volunteer ties that we’ve had with Amphi,” said Wendy Erica Werden, Manager of Community Investment and Philanthropy. “We know teachers, students and parents really need the right technology and resources to make remote learning possible.”

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