Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the State will dedicate $6 million to help school districts connect their K-12 students to the internet.
The funding comes from the CARES Act and will go toward purchasing equipment for school systems to improve connectivity options for students who do not have sufficient internet access at home and provide WiFi transmitters on school buses.
“While the internet access gap has come into sharper focus during the COVID-19 pandemic, securing connectivity for all of Georgia’s students is a long-term need,” Kemp said. “This is a major step to address the gap for this school year so that all Georgia’s children have access to learning opportunities in and out of school.”
With the help of Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods some school systems are looking to implement a school bus WiFi program, which places transmitters on buses used for food delivery, or other vehicles, and having them sit for three or more hours in students’ neighborhoods.
Other school districts are thinking of having WiFi transmitters permanently affixed onto residential buildings where a high prevalence of students live, including apartments and multifamily housing.
“In this connected age, reliable internet access is part of the infrastructure children and families need for learning,” said Superintendent Woods. “This initiative will ensure schools and districts are prepared if distance/virtual learning is needed in the future, but will also expand the horizons of thousands of students long after the pandemic ends.”
The distribution of equipment to school districts is based on the number of student households in school districts that do not have access to adequate connections at home, districts’ ability to match a small portion of their own funds for internet-enabled remote learning options, and publication of a simple WiFi transmitter deployment plan on the district’s website.
Equipment will be granted directly to school districts for their ongoing use and management. There will be no requirement to turn in the equipment after this school year.
Data charges and content filtering services will also be covered by the Georgia Department of Education from August 2020 to May 2021.