A good start
Matt Hassebrock has been a high school teacher in the Bay Area California for nearly a decade now. “At Redwood, Castro Valley USD, the student population is made up of 70% to 80% or more low-income students.”
When COVID-19 forced all schools into distance learning online, the school was faced with a big challenge. In the beginning, the majority of their students were without Internet access or the proper technology in order to participate in online schooling. Luckily, thanks to the hard work of the school and funding from the local and federal government, “every request for a computer and or internet access at zero cost to the students or families” was fulfilled.
The ones who need help
Castro Valley USD was lucky in having the funding and supplies in order to support their students that were in need during the transition into distance learning. However, this has not been as easy of a transition for the majority of schools around the country. There are an estimated 4.4 million households with little to no access to a computer or internet. And many schools around the country were under prepared to support students during the transition into online schooling. Because of how quickly this was sprung upon the country, schools everywhere were in desperate need of help.
Where can students in need turn to?
The transition to online schooling during the height of the pandemic happened all together very quickly. This was very difficult on families, teachers and students that were unprepared for an online learning experience. There are hundreds of thousands of students in this country that depend on schools and libraries for access to internet and computers that allow them to participate and keep up in school.
When all of their support systems were shut down, they were left with nothing and were at a high chance of being left behind. Many students rely heavily on resources such as the public or school library to have access to a computer or the internet. This is why support and funding for low-income students is so important.
No student should be left behind because they cannot afford a computer or internet. In order to help these students, the country and the government needed to act fast in order to provide support and funding for low-income students and families.
Solutions are on the way
Matt Boring, the principal for Corvallis high school here in Oregon says their school “received a great deal of funding from the Higher Education Relief fund.” The Higher Education Relief fund appropriated $82 billion for education in late 2020 in an attempt to help counter the harsh effects of transitioning into online schooling.
Corvallis high school was able to use this funding and the supplies they had on hand to provide “Chromebooks for any students that wanted or needed one and free WIFI hotspots to students that lacked internet access.” The funding that the Higher Education Relief program was able to provide for schools has been essential in helping low-income students successfully continue their education during this time. For low-income students in rural areas that cannot reach or were not able to obtain free WIFI hotspots, there may be another possible solution.
Municipal broadband internet access has potential to be a helpful tool during this situation because it would allow students in rural areas to be able to afford and get access to internet. The Mayor of Corvallis Biff Traber has some doubts about municipal broadband access. “To me, the major downside is the cost of setting up and operating such a system.”
Biff references a municipal broadband system called MINET up in Monmouth and Independence. “One characteristic I understand is that it spent years operating at a substantial loss, costing the cities.” Although he is not sold on the idea of municipal broadband because of the risk and the cost associated, he sees “additional possible solutions using existing service providers.” He believes that working with existing service providers would be a quicker and more efficient way to get affordable internet access to those without it.
“One more thought on broadband access within the Benton County is whether the issue is physical access or cost to the subscriber.” For most low-income families, the cost of these applications is the reason that they are without internet or computers at home. “If so, the issue to be considered is whether the public funds can be used to offset the cost of those services or whether the government can demand low basic access fees as part of their franchise agreement.”
Whether it is the expense of internet access or being out of reach from it, there are hundreds of thousands of students that need internet access. Working with service providers during this time will be pivotal in order to successfully help low-income families receive internet at a reduced expense.
A bright future
Although this situation is not the best and there is plenty of work to be done, there is hope. Funding and support have proven to work for Matt Hassebrock at Castro Valley USD (and Matt Boring at Corvallis high school) as it “allowed us to satisfy every request for a computer and internet access.”
It is important that schools and governments work quickly with students and families being affected during this time. There will not be one single solution to this problem. A student in need of a computer will require different support than a student in need of internet access. But with the correct support and funding, there will be an answer to every student’s needs in this country.
With the support of hard-working government officials, teachers and families, there will be no student left behind.
- Diallo, Amadou. “Low Tech Solutions for Students without Internet Access at Home.” The Hechinger Report, 20 Nov. 2020, hechingerreport.org/how-to-reach-students-without-internet-access-at-home-schools-get-creative/.
- Noonoo, Stephen. “Here’s What Schools Can Do For the Millions of Students Without Internet Access – EdSurge News.” EdSurge, EdSurge, 22 June 2020, www.edsurge.com/news/2020-03-20-here-s-what-schools-can-do-for-the-millions-of-students-without-internet-access.
- USAFacts. “More than 9 Million Children Lack Internet Access at Home for Online Learning.” USAFacts, USAFacts, 19 Oct. 2020, usafacts.org/articles/internet-access-students-at-home/.
- “U.S. Department of Education Quickly Makes Available More Than $21 Billion in Taxpayer Funds to Support Continued Education at Colleges, Universities.” U.S. Department of Education Quickly Makes Available More Than $21 Billion in Taxpayer Funds to Support Continued Education at Colleges, Universities | U.S. Department of Education, 14 Jan. 2021, www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-quickly-makes-available-more-21-billion-taxpayer-funds-support-continued-education-colleges-universities.
- 10, et al. “The Absence of Internet at Home Is a Problem for Some Students.” The Edvocate, 14 Aug. 2018, www.theedadvocate.org/the-absence-of-internet-at-home-is-a-problem-for-some-students/.