CURWENSVILLE HOTSPOTS

Curwensville Area Jr./Sr. High School Student Hudson Cannon holds one of the hotspots the school district received through a grant program provided by T-Mobile. The hotspots are loaned to students provide internet access whose homes are located in areas of the school district with little to no reliable internet.

CURWENSVILLE — Students living in the Curwensville Area School District now have a reliable way to submit their school work thanks to a grant received by the district.

The district recently receive a grant from T-Mobile providing 100 hotspots to be loaned to students living in areas of the school district that have little to no internet access. The hotspots provide wireless access to the internet.

Technology Administrator Aaron Prisk said when schools were ordered closed for 10 days by Gov. Tom Wolf in March 2020 and that closure was then extended in April through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, the district began to gather data about the school community’s ability to connect to the internet, which is necessary for virtual learning.

“We suspected there would be a significant portion of the community lacking what the district considered adequate connectivity. The lack of proper internet infrastructure in rural regions has been a major issue for decades and there’s been little to no movement by major internet service providers and government to try to meaningfully address it. From the survey we came up with a list of households with limited or no connectivity with a majority of them being in a few geographical areas outside of towns within the school district. To help mitigate the problem, a few local businesses were kind enough to allow the district to store a hotspot students could use to download and submit their school assignments. We also encouraged students to take advantage of the district’s Wi-Fi in school parking lots to access their coursework on their district-issued Chromebooks,” Prisk said.

The survey found 5 percent of district households have no internet access and approximately 20 percent have limited access.

“We defined ‘limited access’ as families who have limited bandwidth such as satellite or digital subscriber lines or prohibitive data limits through personal wireless hotspots,” he said.

Prisk said a few months ago he was contacted by a local T-Mobile representative concerning a new program, Project 10 Million. The goal of the project is to provide 10 million hotspots across the country to students with limited to no internet access.

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Curwensville submitted an application and was selected to receive 100 free hotspots at no cost to the school district.

Prisk said, “Now that we have the devices in hand, we’ve been reaching out to the households identified in the district’s survey. As of this moment, we have approximately 25 households with the hotspots the school district received in hand and more are getting issued every day. We are also actively working with the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center who was also awarded hotspots to best address its student’s connectivity needs.”

Prisk said to receive use of a hotspot, residents do not need to be a T-Mobile customer.

“There is no commitment or contract of any kind from students and parents other than turning them back over to the school at the end of year,” he explained.

Prisk said the new hotspots have been very beneficial to the district’s students in several ways.

“One is students who typically wouldn’t be able to fully participate in online coursework are now on par with the rest of their classmates; and two, it also removes some strain on already stretched parents who now won’t have to drive to find internet access.”

District Superintendent Ron Matchock called the program a great project that provides students with the means to be able to do virtual schoolwork.

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