200,000 WiFi hot spots secured for SC students; potential for thousands more

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Making sure South Carolina students can access E-learning is a big challenge this school year, with many schools opting for virtual learning.

For many children who live in rural areas, connecting to the internet to do homework is almost impossible. It’s a limitation the state has recognized and is now working on short term and long term solutions to make sure all South Carolinians are connected.

South Carolina schools are gearing up for the 2021 school year and COVID-19 has forced many schools to offer virtual classes. But 400,000 students don’t have internet.

“The real task at hand was to find out who did not have internet access, why,” said SC Superintendent Molly Spearman.

With school just around the corner, the state is working on short term solutions to make sure students are connected by the start of the school year. 200,000 WiFi hot spots have already been secured.

Spearman continued, “We have put priority on the highest poverty school districts they will have first nabs at it.”

School districts can also secure funding to help low income families pay for monthly internet service.

Representative Raye Felder explained why this may be a better move than hot-spots for some districts.

“Why use a hot spot when you have capability of connecting to the internet, when it’s affordability. And I think in the long run it’s a cost savings especially when you have 3 children in the home and the parents can use it too.”

The state is using federal coronavirus relief to increase internet access, but the CARES act funding runs out at the end of the year which could mean disconnection once again for thousands of students.

Spearman continued, “Is the state going to make a commitment to help keep these services going in some way after December 31st?”

South Carolina lawmakers designated $50 million specifically to broadband access and addressing some of those gaps.

School districts are also getting around $200 million that they can use to purchase additional devices, laptops and things of that nature, in addition, to other COVID-19 related needs.

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