Thursday, August 13, 2020

Rural school districts share creative solutions for lack of broadband, but they need more support, funding

Lack of broadband access was a big challenge for rural school districts this past spring, and it remains so for many districts that are continuing distance learning this fall, according to education policy analysts at the Brookings Institution, who worked with rural districts during the pandemic. But some rural school districts were able to come up with innovative strategies for getting around it, according to a National Center for Rural Education Research Networks study cited by the Brookings analysts; such examples might inspire other rural school districts.

Some solutions that urban and suburban school districts tried, like distributing hotspots, don't always work in rural areas; there may not be enough infrastructure to support broadband at all. Also, the Brookings analysts found that fewer rural districts expected teachers to provide distance instruction and monitor student progress.

Some creative solutions from schools cited in the NCRERN study include: mapping locations in the community that offer free internet access, buying cell phone data for students, connecting families with companies that offer free or inexpensive internet, and setting up hotspots and outdoor work areas on school grounds so students could work and remain socially distant.

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