BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Technology is now an essential part of learning for many children across Maryland who are about to begin school virtually.

But not every family can afford the computers and tablets that are needed to keep students in class.

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Now, United Way is working to bridge the digital gap.

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Tablets are critical school supplies for students at Ben Franklin High School this coming semester.

“They’re not able to access teaching and learning if they don’t have technology,” Kelly Oglesbee, Community School Coordinator at Benjamin Franklin High School, said.

Every junior and senior is getting an Amazon Fire Tablet so no one misses out on class that’s now gone all virtual.

“Having that Amazon Fire is going to help us a lot just because we’ll be able to have access without having to try to find a computer,” Monica Hamilton, a mother of two Benjamin Franklin High School students, said.

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United Way is paying for all of the tablets through its digital divide fund so even families that don’t have enough money for the technology still have access to it.

“We decided to use tablets because they’re more economically feasible for us to purchase,” April Myrick, Assistant Principal of Benjamin Franklin High School, said.

Students now have access to video chatting and apps both at home and while they’re on the go.

Now the students can be well connected with teachers and can keep learning even when the schools are still to be shut down over the coming month.

“If we try to eliminate the barrier of technology and at least have them be able to interact with their teachers on a more consistent basis, it helps keep them up to speed until we can actually return,” Chris Battaglia, Principal of Benjamin Franklin High School, said.

Other schools participating in United Way’s Digital Divide Program include Maree Garnett Farring Elementary/Middle School, Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High School, Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School and Bay Brook Elementary/Middle School.

To donate to the program visit uwcm.org/digitaldivide. Donations are still being accepted through mid-September.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Stetson Miller