Local districts tackle digital divide in rural communities

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — “Every student matters in this country and every student should have the same access to high quality education,” Addison Pate, Three Rivers School District.

Fast, high speed internet is a luxury not everyone has access to.

The Three Rivers School District says roughly 3 and a half percent of its students don’t have any form of internet at home.

With about 10 families saying they don’t have any signal or hot spot capability whatsoever.

“There are some pockets in Josephine County where no signal can get in or out and at best, you may be able to get the older 3G communications or simply phone calls,” said Pate.

Pate says the district plans to give out hot spots and to provide wifi access points for families in need.

However, how well the internet will work in some areas is a separate question entirely.

“We’ve gone from simply just email and messaging to what we’re doing right now on zoom. And so those types of communications, those video communications can sometimes push some of our families internet speeds to the limit,” he said.

Even in the less rural Grants Pass School District 7, it says 2 percent of students don’t have internet access.

But with most families living in the city limits, the district says connectivity is less of a concern.

“In addition to providing hot spots to families who qualify, we’re also going to allow for students and families to come into school offices if they need to connect to wifi, download their work, download their videos, work offline if that works best for them,” said Kristin Hosfelt, Grants Pass School District 7.

Both districts agree, internet quality and access is a vital to the distance learning model.

And say they’ll do whatever they can to make sure students needs are met.

“Making sure that every student has access to internet or to a support that gives them the access that they need without internet,” said Hosfelt.

“Ultimately, every child regardless of their zip code should be provided the best possible education,” said Pate.

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