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ST. LOUIS – E-learning and in-class instruction have almost become synonymous.

So, making the switch due to COVID-19 for some districts was a smooth transition.

However, for North Side Community School things weren’t so smooth.

“This COVID crisis has illuminated that poverty that much more,” said Chester Asher, principal.

Combating income and housing disparities isn’t new in Asher’s playbook, but he admits he wasn’t quite prepared for the reality COVID-19 brought to light in his new school district.

“The absence of what for me what seems like basic tools in the year 2020 to really function,” he said. “It was really an eyeopener.”

To prepare, Asher says he kept his hand on the pulse on what schools in big cities like New York and Los Angeles were doing long before feeling coronavirus effects here in St. Louis.

He found those school switching to online, but at North Side Community School, there were no E-learning capabilities.

So, the CEO sent out a questionnaire to students to get a feel for who had been equipped to transition to an online platform.

“We have about 500 scholars and about 330 or something said they didn’t have access to a device or a laptop,” said Asher.

Additionally, some 100 of those students didn’t have access to the internet as well.

In a panic, Asher tapped into his school’s network and found the relief he needed.

Thanks to a $25,000 and 100 laptop donation, every student now has an e-learning device and internet access to listen, be organized and participate in class.

“The kids get really excited,” said Stephon Greenlee, teacher. “They really eat up the opportunity to see us. Some do it with their friends, so to do it with their teachers. When you first log in, they’re like ‘there go Mr. Greenlee.’ They get excited, but the response has been great!”

Not only is North Side Community School located in one of the highest crime-ridden areas, data shows COVID-19 is just as prevalent.

So, Asher believes providing this level of education for these students isn’t only pertinent, it’s imperative.

And what’s special, is that they’re doing it all together.

“We’re learning with the kids, its school for everybody,” said Asher.

Principal Asher is being honest with parents – there will be summer school this year.

Whether online or in-person it is happening, no matter learning level of the student.

Granted, he says students are simply not learning at the same rate as in-class instruction, so it must be done.