Last week, the Utah State Board of Education approved a plan to request $5 million from the Legislature to sustain and expand broadband access for students. The Deseret News reported that funds would come from the CARES Act.
According to State School Board documents, the goal is to support online learning due to COVID-19 and “promote equitable access to highly effective teachers.” Since the start of the school year, the Salt Lake City school district has offered virtual learning and has struggled to provide broadband access, and laptops to its 20,000-plus student body, reported the News.
Sam Quantz, the Salt Lake City School District’s chief information officer, noted that federal funds had enabled the district to distribute hundreds of personal hotspots to students. They have also set up WiFi at the high school football stadium, allowing kids to access the internet from the parking lot. Quantz added that if federal funds were not available, the district “could have handled probably about a third” of the costs, totaling $250,000 to date.
The News reported that the school district also tapped into the State School Board’s grant program to cover in-home internet access. The access is provided by a joint partnership between the Salt Lake Education Foundation and Comcast.