GDOE working to provide free internet service to students


Internet accessibility may soon be available to students for online learning.
GDOE wants to phase out the hard copy model and encourages students to switch to online learning. But some families, those without internet access, are concerned.

Superintendent Jon Fernandez says GDOE is working with the Governor’s office on two options for students in need of internet access.

One option involves opening the community learning centers to provide internet access and allow the use of the centers’ computer equipment.

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“Now, in prior years, I think that idea has been floated around. But you know, sometimes when you discuss these types of arrangements, some of the schools are a little concerned about how we’re going to staff it and how are we going to operate it and so forth. But now with the pandemic upon us and knowing that this may be a similar situation moving forward, we’re definitely looking at the benefits that we can bring by opening up our facilities and equipping them for use, whether you’re doing it for a computer lab on campus after hours or whether it’s just for a wifi connection to the internet. We want to do that and I think that’s an appropriate way to support the community and technology use moving forward,” Fernandez said.

The second option involves GDOE putting out a connectivity bid to the island’s internet service providers. The awarded providers will work with GDOE to supply internet connection to students and families who prefer to do online learning from the comfort of their homes.

“This is where we are looking for ways to connect to students at home with their own internet access. Right now, we are looking very heavily at the option to provide some of those MiFi devices, those personal hotspots that can be used for the homes for you know, 5 to 10 different users at a time. One device like that is easy to distribute, easy to manage, and they can serve multiple siblings at once, I think that’s kind of emerging as a good approach for students and their families,” Fernandez said.

Private and charter schools will also be eligible to participate in the program. If they choose to, they’ll be able to receive an allocation of the MiFi devices and will be able to distribute to their students

Fernandez says the plans require the approval of the governor’s office, which is in charge of that portion of the $12.5 million grant which supports these plans. The funds are now in the final stages of approval by the US Department of Education.

Once the administration gives GDOE the green light to move forward, Fernandez said they will move as quickly as they can to start the procurement process.