State and local education leaders work to fill internet access gap

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OAK HILL, WV (WVNS) — Teachers turned to ZOOM classes, Facebook live readings, and other technology to connect with their students after schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michele Blatt, the Assistant State Superintendent, said some students really missed out.

“We have students that are not able to access any internet. Some received paper packets, which is not the same as looking at your teacher or on the phone and staying connected with your class,” Blatt said.

The West Virginia Department of Education sent out a survey to all school superintendents.
They are trying to get a grasp on the number of students in the state who do not have internet access at home.

“There’s been a lot of issues around equity of access. We knew that was a problem in West Virginia, but we didn’t realize how severe of a problem that it was,” Blatt said.

They hope to use the data from the survey to apply for different grants and find a solution for years to come.

In Fayette County, they conducted a survey of their own, to find students who could not access resources online. Moe Shrewsberry is the Fayette County School Network Specialist.

“There was a good bit of kids that didn’t have it in rural areas,” Shrewsberry explained.

They are already preparing for next year, just in case students have to work remotely again. Shrewsberry said laptops will be given to students who do not have a device. All of the student’s work and books will be uploaded on to the computer.

“They’ll bring their laptop in to the school or any internet. It will download all the content on to it, and then they’ll take it back home and work on it,” Shrewsberry said.

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