With the drastic changes to learning forced upon the school system by the coronavirus pandemic, some burning questions are probably lingering in everyone’s heads right about now, not the least of which is “What about those with no internet?” It turns out people in such a situation were on the minds of Westmoreland County’s School Board last month, with many of them trying to come up with an answer. 

Presently, at-home learning is conducted through a mixture of internet meetings and worksheet packets. This presents a bit of a problem for people at home with no internet in the first place, and the main solution that popped up at the time was the potential for school-issued internet hotspots. The main discussion about the matter cropped up after Assistant Superintendent Cathy Rice finished giving her calendar update. 

The possibilities discussed at the time included chromebooks with hotspots built in, separate hotspots, or a mixture of the two. At the time of the meeting, they did not have a full figure on just how much such an arrangement might cost, which was a concern for Chairman Ralph Fallin. 

“I like the concept, I’m just thinking of the cost,” the Chairman commented. “But right now, I think that’s the only real option for getting internet to all of our students.”

It did, however, turn out that Rice had a ballpark estimate of how much 50 of these 2-gig hotspots would cost for six months of internet usage, and it came out to the neighborhood of $12,000. Of course, while the price goes down a bit for buying in bulk, for many with an eye towards money, that will probably be small consolation.

Another possibility, which was raised by Vice Chairman Dr. Wallace, was a sort of community hotspot.

“That would allow us to work with churches, civic groups, and libraries,” he commented. Of course, this would not be an easy option by any means, as the data would still have to be filtered to school standards so as to control what the students see.

For those that are nervous about what such an initiative might cost, between negotiating data plans for said hotspots and the actual purchasing of them, it should be mentioned that the hotspots would be for the students in one family, rather than each student. Essentially, if a family has four students, then there’s going to be one hotspot that all of them use. Plus there’s also the fact that many students may already have internet access, and thus not need a hotspot in the first place. Rice also stated that they will be taking this into account when they start running the numbers on how many more hotspots may be needed, if any.


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