Wi-Fi is an essential school supply in 2020 — that’s undeniable. But who should be responsible for ensuring children have access to during the COVID-19 pandemic: Their families or their school system?
In Lockland Local School District, one of the poorest districts in all of Ohio, it wasn’t much of a question. Superintendent Bob Longworth knew many Lockland families would never have reliable internet access without help. If they didn’t get it, their children’s education would suffer.
“We believe that it's our responsibility to provide that because we are leaning heavily on those resources to meet the needs of our kids,” he said Wednesday. "Job one for us is to make sure everybody we serve gets excellent access to an education and the tools and resources that they need."
So Lockland schools are partnering with the village government and Cincinnati Bell to offer 15 free, public Wi-Fi hotspots spread throughout the district. The school district is paying for this program with grants from the state of Ohio, CARES Act funding and help from local nonprofit organizations, Longworth said.
Eight of the spots are in public areas; seven are set up in apartment complexes that house high numbers of Lockland students. They were all accessible on Wednesday night.
Longworth said the pandemic has spotlighted many of the issues his students face, far beyond the scope of Wi-Fi access. He hopes the new internet connectivity program is a step in the right direction.
"We really believe that work like this is going to allow us to level the playing field for our boys and girls,” he said.