Grant will provide Wi-Fi hotspots to loan from libraries

Officials say internet access is key to closing the homework gap

Students make their way out of Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh after the first day of the new school year for Wake County schools, Monday, August 28, 2017. (Eamon Queeney / North State Journal)

 

RALEIGH — A two-year grant will pay for Wi-Fi hotspots to be loaned to students needing them to do internet-based homework. The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences awarded a $250,000 grant to the State Library of North Carolina and the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Office in an effort to close what they call the “homework gap.”

The gap is considered those K-12 students who are assigned homework that requires the internet, but don’t have access to it at home. The N.C. Department of Information Technology (DIT) estimated that 10 percent of N.C. households with school-aged children don’t have internet access.

“Most teachers assign homework that requires internet access, and many textbooks in North Carolina public schools are now digital,” said State Librarian Cal Shepard. “That puts those students without home internet access at a huge disadvantage. This project uses the great resources we already have in local libraries and public schools to begin to break down those barriers and close the gap for these students.”

Starting in July, up to four North Carolina library systems will get the Wi-Fi hotspots to loan to students. The library systems will also work with local families and provide required digital literacy training.

The project will work with a library system in one, as of yet unidentified, economically disadvantaged Tier I county during the first year and will expand to include up to three more library systems in year two.

Each system will also work with local schools to identify up to 30 families without internet service each school semester. Over the two years, officials say that about 300 families will participate in total.

According to a press release from DIT, additional partners include the Friday Institute Research and Evaluation Team, who will conduct the project evaluation and provide research assistance; the N.C. Department of Public Instruction; and Kramden Institute, a nonprofit computer refurbisher.