The New Mexico Department of Public Education has taken more action as part of its court-ordered efforts to ensure that all public school students have adequate access to the Internet, the agency said in a statement. Press.
The New Mexico Student Connect program, run by broadband consultant CTC Technology and Energy, is aimed at families with school-aged children to find those who still need internet access and digital devices, a declared the agency.
The CTC is also raising awareness of the agency’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which provides eligible households with a monthly credit of $ 50 – $ 75 for houses on tribal lands – to secure internet service. The program also offers a one-time credit of $ 100 towards the purchase of a computer.
âBy the time the new school year begins, we will have used all available resources to ensure that every student in the state has what they need to participate, not only in the distance learning program, but also in the many other ways we use. technology for learning, âEducation Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a statement. âWe connect people and bridge the digital divide. “
The CTC’s outreach effort is focused on 23 school districts named in the landmark Yazzie / Martinez education lawsuit, in which a judge ruled in 2018 that the state was failing to provide sufficient education for some groups of students.
In April, Justice Matthew Wilson ordered the state to determine the need for digital devices and internet access among students in those 23 districts, including Santa Fe public schools.
The Department of Public Education released a digital survey in early May – “for those who could fill it” – to help assess the need. He was criticized for the online format of the survey.
Neal Weaver, director of information and strategy for Santa Fe Public Schools, said most students in the local district have internet access at home, but it’s often too slow to run programs distance learning.
The district partnered with a research firm late last year to assess families’ internet access.
âWe started to focus on making the Internet connection sufficient,â Weaver said. âThe end result was that we realized that there was [were] less than 100 students who don’t have internet – really no internet connection. “
As a temporary fix during the pandemic, he said, the district sent paper packages to these students. The district later provided take-out hot spots and outdoor Wi-Fi at some school sites.
Some of the hot spots weren’t fast enough for students’ academic needs, Weaver said, so the district is working to upgrade them.
The district is also contributing to the CTC’s efforts to reach families in need, he said.
âWe can provide information to the CTC. So when they speak to students, we can provide them with a list of opportunities, depending on where they live, how many people are in their household and many other factors, âWeaver said.
He estimates that nearly 74 percent of students in the Santa Fe District will be eligible for the aid program.
Even before the pandemic, he said, internet access problems created a “homework vacuum”, making it difficult for students to keep up with their studies.
Even if students return to class in August, he said, their addiction to digital learning will continue.