ACPS to provide wifi hot spots or in-person instruction to students with limited internet access

ACPS to provide wifi hot spots or in-person instruction to students with limited internet access

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The back-to-school countdown is on and Albemarle County Public Schools are preparing for most students to start virtually.

This brings up relevant questions about internet access and connectivity because a lot of families lack those resources. After going virtual in the spring, ACPS quickly learned that internet connectivity is complex.

In places where service is limited, hot spots do not always work. That is why they are giving families with no internet connection or only an adequate hot spot signal, the option to send their kids to school for in-person instruction.

“Some of these households that have low connectivity, a hot spot may not solve their problem and that’s one of the things that we have to determine really on a case by case basis,” Chief Technology Officer Christine Diggs said.

Of approximately 6,600 survey responses from families -- 10 to 15 percent of students lack sufficient internet access.

“We’re really looking at 700 to 1,100, probably closer to 1,000 or less,” Diggs said.

Those about 1,000 students have the option to work virtually from school starting September 8. However, if the family is uncomfortable with that, ACPS’s Student Learning Department has an alternative.

“They will provide paper packets and flash drives so there will be a lot of some recorded video instruction,” Diggs said.

ACPS will also help sponsor a Comcast program called ‘Internet Essentials’ to provide service for financially insecure families.

“If they qualify, then they can apply and we will be the financial sponsor,” Diggs said.

Diggs claims they are heavily relying on parents to give them a better look into each family’s internet situation.

“We’re looking at those that have might have some internet access, but it’s not adequate enough to stream video and so that’s our next area where we’re really digging in, it’s really important to us,” she said. “We’re all just trying to make the best of a not great situation and we’ll give them the tools and best resources we have.”

The technology department has quite the to-do list before the school year kicks off.

ACPS is ordering more hot spots and distributing new laptops to students in grades 3, 6, and 9. ACPS will also provide iPads to students in grades K-2 and set up tech support staff in each school.

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