Harrisonburg City Public Schools using grant funding to expand broadband access

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 12:27 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - At the beginning of 2022, Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) received $30,000 in grant funding from a mobile network operator company to expand access to the internet for students in the division.

The funding from Kajeet, which is only for the 2022-23 academic year, has helped HCPS staff research and identify areas in the city where students lack access to broadband internet and provide solutions like mounted hotspot-type devices.

“Some of our staff worked with Harrisonburg Electric Commission to identify utility poles around the community that the devices could be mounted on, so that students could get access. They identified two in the Norwood Street area, two at University Place, and one out at the Spotswood Trailer Park,” HCPS director of technology Kevin Perkins said.

Along with those mounted devices, Perkins says the funding has also been used for finding ways to increase connectivity options within the schools themselves so if for example, an outdoor classroom is being utilized, teachers and students would be able to access educational materials in proximity from the building.

However, Perkins says since the funding from Kajeet is only good until the end of this school year, there is a plan in the works to help families continue to have reliable broadband access.

“The federal government has an Affordable Connectivity Program and that program has enough funding there to fund it for at least five years and if families qualify they can receive a $30-a-month subsidy on their home internet bill,” Perkins said.

Perkins says during the break between the first and second semesters and into the beginning of spring, information about the FCC program for HCPS families looking for help will be provided for students.