With no option for in-person learning, WiFi access can be a problem for students in Clarke County schools, but the Clarke County School District and the city of Athens are working together to address this issue.
The Clarke County School District and the Athens Area County Chamber of Commerce have provided a list of places where students can access free WiFi. Currently, there are 18 locations listed in the online directory. This list includes government buildings like Clarke Middle School and the Lyndon House Arts Center.
Beth Moore, the communications manager for the Clarke County School District, said the district scrambled to provide devices and internet access to students. Moore believes the lack of internet connection is one of the biggest challenges the school district faces in the era of virtual learning.Why It’s Newsworthy: The Clarke County School District in Athens, Georgia, is currently conducting school virtually. The School District and Athens Clarke County came together to provide solutions for students who do not have access to WiFi.
Parking Lot Logins
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarke County students have not been in a classroom since they left for spring break in March. The Clarke County School District in Athens, Georgia, started school virtually on Sept. 8, 2020.
Though 90% of households in Athens have a computer, only 79.9% of households have a broadband internet subscription, per the U.S. Census Bureau website.
Because all Clarke County School District buildings are currently closed to the public, students can only access the Clarke Middle School WiFi from the area surrounding the building. Clarke Middle School is the only school in Clarke County listed on the “Free WiFi for Students” directory.
Only students can access the WiFi from the places listed on the directory. As stated on the CCSD website, “CCSD internet filters are set up to work off-site on CCSD devices only.”
Moore said there is not a specific spot set up outside of Clarke Middle for students to work. Instead, students can use the WiFi coming out of Clarke Middle School to log into school portals from their cars or outside the school.
Moore said there have been calls from families asking for the schools to open for students to come in and work, but she said bringing students back inside the building requires additional planning.
For parents facing issues with getting their child access to WiFi and technology, Moore said her best piece of advice is to contact their child’s school.
“Go directly to your school, talk through them and let them support you,” said Moore.
If students are looking for a place to access WiFi indoors, the Lyndon House Arts Center is providing public internet inside and outside of its facility.
The Lyndon House transformed its community room into a remote learning space with the ability to accommodate 14 individuals within the room. Didi Dunphey, the program specialist at the Lyndon House, said they used CDC guidelines to space out tables and chairs to the appropriate square footage around a seated individual.
Dunphey said students can access their CCSD portals from within the building and up to 300 feet around the perimeter of the building. At the moment, Dunphey has students using their outdoor facilities in the garden and yard, but hasn’t seen anybody inside their community room.
We are the community arts center that is funded by tax dollars.we are here to support and uplift the community,” said Dunphey.
The Lyndon House was the first facility outfitted by the Athens-Clarke County Government to provide Clarke County students with WiFi.
The Lyndon House is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., for students to take advantage of their free internet. Dunphey said students 13 or older can come in on their own, but students 12 and younger need to be accompanied by a chaperone.
New Routes to Connecting
Between February 2020 and May 2020, an estimated 14 percent of working Americans lost their jobs because of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For students and families facing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Athens Area Homeless Shelter provides shelter and internet access to those in need—including Clarke County School District students. Jocelyn Crumpton is the Bridge to Home Coordinator at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter. The Bridge to Home program provides educational resources and childcare services to their clients facing homelessness.
Crumpton said the majority of students that AAHS serves are in the Clarke County School District.
To guarantee that those living in the AAHS apartment were having enough internet to allow for the parents and children to do virtual school, the complex transitioned from having one router to having three. This means that instead of six families being on one router, two families are on one router at the AAHS apartment.
In regards to how the pandemic has affected students facing homelessness, Crumpton said it creates a disparity.
I think it increases the gap between the socioeconomic disparities. This definitely heightens it more than being in the school building,” said Crumpton.
For families looking to access the resources provided by the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, Crumpton says to contact them directly at (706) 354-0423 or fill out their Seeking Shelter form.
Lillie Beck is a senior journalism major in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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