Like my previous blog post, the content for this entry is from a webinar on E-rate and the Homework Gap. The presentation was part of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition’s Grow2Gig+ Webinar Series.
One of the presenters was Andrew Moore, Chief Information Officer for Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). He pointed out the increase in digital delivery of instruction and related learning activities means students need reliable home Internet access to complete assignments. They need to watch videos, collaborate with classmates, and do research away from school. Students without home Internet access often resort to visiting Starbucks, McDonalds, or another local place with access, but that’s far from a desirable or equitable solution.
BVSD have been developing public-private partnerships to increase home access. Initially, they worked with Boulder Housing Partners to provide affordable Internet access for low-income families. That program was determined to be a violation of e-rate regulations because they were providing access to non-school locations. The district filed a FCC waiver request, but after a promising start, the process stalled after the public comment period. Meanwhile, BVSD found an alternative means to provide access to public housing that’s outside e-rate’s jurisdiction.
One pilot project serves Alicia Sanchez International School, an elementary school with 79% of its students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Via a public-private partnership, the school provides real estate to locate a tower in exchange for access for free internet for students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
Moore said of all the lessons learned, the most important has been to realize access is a complex problem that requires help from community leaders, partners, government agencies, community-based organizations, students and parents.