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Connecticut News

Wi-Fi Hotspots Enable Connecticut Students To Learn Under Lockdown

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Nearly one in ten students in a large Connecticut school district can’t access the internet. That’s made distance learning in the COVID-19 era difficult for some children in New Britain. But officials have found a creative solution, with the help of a local philanthropist.

New Britain Superintendent Nancy Sarra says about a thousand families had no way for students to learn at home when schools closed in March. The city ranks second to last in the state in educational funding. Sarra says there wasn’t a lot of money to help them.

“Everyone is promoting free Wi-Fi here and there, but every time you take advantage of a deal, it didn’t turn out to be a deal for many families.”

They even considered asking families to park in the parking lot and use the school’s Wi-Fi. Then they hit on the idea of bringing Wi-Fi to families. Local car dealer Schaller offered cars and volunteers to sit outside families’ houses with Wi-Fi hotspots in their cars.

“The Schaller volunteers will drive up with their car and stay in Neighborhood A from 8 to 11, let’s say, take a lunch break, and then take their afternoon shift and go to the second neighborhood.”

Sarra says it’s only a short-term solution. But she says it’s the only one right now for an underfunded school serving many low-income families.

“It’s difficult to live in these circumstances day over day…It isn’t fair. It’s not fair that we’re doing this, but it doesn’t stop you from doing it. We will figure out a way to do this.”

She says she hopes the pandemic will bring out at least one silver lining – showing how how ingenious school districts can be even without a lot of funding.

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.

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