When the Coronavirus pandemic caused Fox 26/My20 President and General Manager D’Artagnan Bebel’s twins to return home from college, he watched as they dove into online learning. While they were able to do it with ease, he couldn’t help but wonder about all the area students who didn’t have the capabilities for online learning. So when his former colleague, Melinda Spaulding, pitched the idea of a one-hour educational initiative, Bebel took the unprecedented move to give area districts free on-air program time.
“There are a lot of students in our school system that don’t necessarily have access to a laptop, a desktop, iPad, or access to the Internet and that isn’t fair,” Bebel said. “So I decided to donate the time and we began soliciting different school systems to have classes on television since most people have TVs.”
“Classes At Home” airs daily from 11 a.m. to noon on My20. Every day, a different district airs classroom instruction. The districts set their own programming and targeted grade levels. Currently, Houston, Aldine, Alvin, and Stafford school districts are taking part. The Children’s Museum and iWrite Classes also have educational programs.
Spaulding said her goal in developing the program was to make sure that no child in the district is left behind.
“As a mom, a TV journalist and someone who now works in education, I was so touched by the technology gap for online learning because of COVID 19,” added Spaulding, a mother of two. “I also understand and respect the power of television. I was really moved to write and produce the pitch. Sending it to D’Art was my first thought. He had the commitment to the community, influence and resources to make it happen… and he did.”
Spaulding said they hope to see more districts come on board.
“I’m hoping all of us who are volunteering on this project can do our part to help children get the access to education that they need and deserve, regardless of income,” she said. “I also hope that we can continue to use educational content on television for lifelong learning. Higher Ed would be a great next phase.”
Bebel also recently made another unprecedented move – donating more than ten hours of airtime to local churches on Easter.
“As we came up on Easter Sunday, I began to think, similar to the education program, there are a lot of people who aren’t able to go to services and if you think about the demographics of some of the older churches, they may not be as technologically savvy. The idea was to be inclusive and provide something that would be uplifting for the community. In this time of a desperate situation it calls for decisions that are atypical,” Bebel said, adding that he will continue to donate air time to local church services during the pandemic.