Staunton hopes to end "digital divide" with hotspot donation

Dr. Smith said they'll now have 400 hotspots available for check-out. | Credit: WHSV
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV)— Staunton City Schools are continuing to add to their Equity First Fund, after a donation from T-Mobile.

The school system announced on Monday that they would be receiving a donation of 200 hotspots, which are checked out to families in the city during the school year to help improve internet access.

Dr. Garett Smith, superintendent, said they had worked with T-Mobile on providing hotspots for several years, and the program has been very successful. They now have a total of 400 hotspots, which Dr. Smith hopes will help eliminate the digital divide.

"So everyone, they'll be able to access their students' grades, they'll be able to communicate with their students' teachers, any security alerts or weather alerts, they'll receive all those as well," Dr. Smith said.

An important part of ending the divide is providing computers to families in need. Dr. Smith said they're in the process of refurbishing Chromebooks and laptops that are no longer in use. Those will be donated on a first-come, first-served basis for families in need, beginning in March.

T-Mobile also made a donation of $26,000 to the school's Equity First Fund. Dr. Smith said the fund was started after a woman donated $100,000 to the school system.

Dr. Smith said the fund is now over $130,000, and will be used to cover things like dual enrollment fees, other instructional fees, athletic fees--anything that can be a barrier to students participating.

"We know that education is the one vehicle that changes outcomes for children," Dr. Smith said. "It changes people's lives."