Lawrence school district offering internet hotspots to high school students who don’t have access at home

photo by: Nick Krug

The Lawrence school district offices are pictured at 110 McDonald Drive in this file photo from May 2017.

When students don’t have access to the internet at home, they can be at a distinct disadvantage to their peers.

That’s why the Lawrence school district recently expanded its effort to provide internet hotspots that students can take home for personal use, said Julie Boyle, a spokeswoman for the school district.

In recent years, the district has offered a limited number of internet hotspots — known as Kajeets — that students could check out through their school’s library. But that has not been enough to address the need for reliable internet access for all students, Boyle said.

To help address the problem, the district this year teamed up with The 1 Million Project Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide internet access to high school students who do not have it at home. Through the new program, the school will offer high-speed internet hotspots with 10 GB of monthly data to eligible high school students for the duration of their high school careers, Boyle said.

“We have a commitment to equity in Lawrence Public Schools, including equitable access to technology,” Boyle said. “Providing each of our secondary students a mobile device that they may take home to extend their learning is a great first step.”

Boyle said the foundation required the school district to survey students to determine their eligibility. She said the school district would be calling parents and guardians to notify them of the survey, which it will do until Sept. 4. After eligibility is determined by the survey, the parents or guardians will need to sign an agreement outlining how the hotspots can be used, she said.

With the new program dedicated to high school students, Boyle said the Kajeets would still be offered at the middle schools.

In its mission statement, the foundation says it’s working to provide reliable internet access to a million high school students in the United States because students who do not have access have been left behind as schoolwork has moved more into the digital age. That leads to many students not completing their schoolwork, the foundation says.

“Without access to these free devices and service, for many of these students the go-to solution is to do their homework at fast-food restaurants, where the Wi-Fi is free,” the foundation says on its website. “Many also wait in long lines at libraries to secure the time online to complete their homework. Again, this isn’t fair, it isn’t right and it doesn’t need to happen.”

Boyle said students in Lawrence were no different. The school district’s technology initiatives aim to provide Macbook computers to each high school student and iPad tablets to each middle school student. These are used in the classroom but may be taken home to do school work as well.

“Since we also know that many of our students do not have access to reliable internet service outside of school, it’s important for us to work with community partners to try to address that barrier,” she said.

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