A Year of Remote Learning Without Internet Access: How the Opportunity Fund Impacted Student Success
We saw at the end of the 2019-20 school year that COVID was going to deeply impact student learning. Thousands of students were missing out on their education due to a lack of access to internet services at home. While the district moved quickly to ensure each student had a device, internet was still an issue. Some students were traveling to local places like Starbucks where they would sit in a car all day to access the internet for their school work. Some students didn't participate at all, having to stay home to watch their siblings. Unfortunately, COVID severely impacted the 2020-21 school year as well, causing our entire district to shut down for large portions of the school year, and consistently send hundreds of students and staff into quarantine.
Comcast Essentials Partnership
A partnership was established with Comcast that would help eliminate a lack of internet access for students in District 6. Comcast introduced their Internet Essentials program that was developed in order to give Low-Income Households Affordable High-Speed Internet. "A home internet connection is more essential now than ever for today's families," a Comcast representative stated. Families were eligible for the program as long as they qualified for Free-and-Reduced Lunch.
What was provided
During the 2020-21 school year, 920 hotspots were assigned. A hotspot is a physical location where people may obtain free internet access. They were placed in areas where internet might not be available, or in highly populated areas. The district also gave away 523 vouchers to families who qualified for the Internet Essentials Program. Once families called, it took about 2-3 days to receive service.
Opportunity Fund Impact
Thanks to a $50K donation from JBS to our Opportunity Fund, we were able to provide free internet access to students for remote learning. The Opportunity Fund was established to help close equity gaps within District 6, and this is a prime example of the intention of the fund. While many students are getting ready to head to a 5th Quarter over the summer, there is no question that a massive part of our student population would be even further behind had they not have had access to the internet.