State funding to increase internet access for Madison County students

One mother said she is planning on taking advantage of a WiFi voucher program provided by the state.

Posted: Aug 17, 2020 11:35 PM
Updated: Aug 18, 2020 7:19 AM

Wednesday marks the first day of the school year for Madison County Schools, which will begin with nine weeks of remote learning as the school system tries to help fight the spread of coronavirus. 

That means students will need to have access to the internet. Some will depend on the system or a new program from the state to help them enter their virtual classrooms.

District officials said every student has a device or Chromebook for this upcoming year. 

"They are doing the best they can with what they can do," Parent Terri Waters said. 

Waters is still uncertain on how exactly virtual learning with pan out for her two kids. She does not have internet access at home. Last year when the school shut down to due to coronavirus, her daughter learned from packets. 

A few weeks ago she was worried about the start of the new school year, but now some of her concerns have gone away. 

"I mean it's a lot better than expected because they did supply the Chromebooks and the WiFi," Waters said. 

The district gave her family a hotspot. Another option will soon appear in her mailbox. It is called the Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students Program.

It is a WiFi voucher funded by $100 million from the Coronavirus Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES). Kids enrolled in the National School Lunch Program will receive free internet access. 

"This is the first time I've heard of it so hopefully it comes through and we can be eligible for it," Waters said. 

For high school senior Tomas Rodriguez, he said he is fortunate to already have internet access. However, he did receive his chromebook and is actually looking forward to learning virtually.

"It's going to be weird at first especially because I'm not a computer guy so I don't know too much about it, but I think I'll get into it," Rodriguez said. 

Back at the Waters' home, while she is relieved her kids have the tools to learn online, they will be going to traditional in-person school as soon as the district allows it. 

"It hurts your heart a little bit because like she'll get up and want to get dressed and ready to go to school and you'll tell her no and she's eager to go and most kids aren't like that," Waters said. 

A voucher should be coming in the mail for those who are eligible in the next five to 10 days. In the meantime, the district said they have WiFi available from each school, have handed out hot spots, and have 90 buses with wifi going to different locations throughout the county. 

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