Supporting student technology and internet access in unprecedented times
Access to a high-quality public education is among the greatest resources we can provide to young people, and in today’s rapidly changing world — especially with the ongoing pandemic — technology and internet access is vital to providing students a first-rate public education.
In March, Marshalltown Community School District moved quickly to ensure Bobcat students had access to Chromebooks at home. Those Chromebooks proved crucial to ensuring learning could continue, even as the coronavirus pandemic turned the school year on its head.
Even with thousands of students equipped with Chromebooks, it was clear that devices alone were not enough to ensure as much equity as possible in this new educational environment. Through multiple surveys and family contacts, we estimated that approximately 15-20 percent of Bobcat students did not have access to high-speed home internet.
To meet the needs of as many families as possible, MCSD has amassed 450 internet hotspots for families to use. Additionally, we have contracted with Mediacom to provide high-speed home internet access to 437 qualifying district families.
However, plenty of challenges remain. Damage from the Aug. 10 derecho has caused an understandable slow-down in the installation of new home-internet connections. We also know that access to high-quality internet is a moving target due to economical and logistical challenges, so there are still more families who could potentially use technology and internet support.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown there is much more work to be done to provide equitable access to online information for many people in Iowa and the United States. That is why Marshalltown Schools continues to press hard to provide students with digital devices and internet connectivity.
While we are proud of the digital supports we have put in place for MCSD students, we know this work is never finished. We will continue to forge ahead in providing equity through internet and technology access this school year and beyond.
Amy Harmsen is the Director of Technology
for the Marshalltown Community