With the first day of school set for next Monday the Cedar Rapids Community School District is racing to try and get all of its nearly 16,000 students connected to the internet.
The school district estimated about 2,000 of its students did not have home internet access before the August 10 derecho, but they now believe that number has increased since the storm.
“I’ve been in education 27 years, and this is the most difficult challenge that I’ve ever faced, the hardest I’ve ever worked,” RCSD Executive Director of Digital Literacy Craig Barnum tells KCRG-TV 9.
Barnum says there are three ways the district is working to connect families with internet access for the school year.
The first is through internet hubs. There are seven locations around Cedar Rapids supervised by district staff, where students can work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., use free Wi-Fi, and get help with schoolwork.
According to KCRG-TV 9 Those locations are: Jane Boyd (943 14th Avenue SE), Paul Engel Center (1600 4th Ave SE), Four Oaks (1924 D Street SW and 2100 1st Avenue NE), First Lutheran Church (1000 3rd Ave SE), Cedar Rapids Public Library’s downtown branch (450 5th Ave SE), and the Salvation Army Community Center (1000 C Ave NW).
The second option is through a partnership with ImOn through the company’s CARES funding. Families who qualify for free and reduced lunches and currently don’t have access to the internet will be able to receive free internet service for 10 months.
“That should take into account upwards of about 1,500 households in the district, it potentially could, which is roughly around, potentially, 2,500, 3,000 kids,” Barnum said.
Barnum says the third option is the district is loaning about 2,400 hotspots to get students connected to the internet at home. Priority for those is going to the families who chose all-online learning for this year.
“We’re trying to reach out to those families and contact them and make sure they’ve got what they need to get started,” Barnum said. “Those calls started actually about a week-and-a-half ago, but it does take time to reach people, and so we’re still working on it.”
(Photo from KCRG-TV 9)