Columbus Municipal School District is looking for ways to provide internet access to all of its students even when they are at home.
During a district review meeting Wednesday, school board members discussed plans to broadcast CMSD’s internet service citywide in the evenings in an effort to improve student achievement, especially for students who don’t have internet access outside of school.
“We already have this resource that’s just sitting here like a dammed-up river (after 3:30 p.m. on weekdays),” Spears said. “Why not remove the barrier if it’s possible and figure out a way to regulate it?
“When students leave this school house, (if) they have access at home that’s great,” he added. “But if they do not, they’re … limited or at (more of) a disadvantage than others. (By broadcasting CMSD’s internet) they can continue doing their schoolwork by tapping into our system that we have.”
Spears said the district plans to broadcast the internet provided for the district as far as it can. For example, Spears said, Columbus Light and Water has fiber optic cables throughout the city that are currently unused. Though the board is still in the early stages of developing a plan for citywide internet, Spears said they are hoping to partner with CLW, internet providers and MDE to bring the idea to fruition.
Superintendent Cherie Labat said she plans to research if other school districts also provide citywide internet and whether CMSD could model their plans. She added the effect technology has on academic achievement has been proven by multiple academic journals.
“What’s been impressive since I’ve come into the district is that technology (in the schools) is not an issue,” she said. “I can just imagine if technology was able to go home with the students. Watching our students interact with technology, I can see that it could be a huge void if they didn’t have it. I just think about what could happen if this took place, for families, not even for the child.”
Spears said the possibility of providing internet could even increase parental involvement in the district.
“It’s not only going to increase the students’ abilities in testing and being able to research, but it’s going to give them more of an opportunity to become more efficient,” Spears said. “The other indirect benefit, by doing it this way, you’re putting it in the home. The child is able to do their work, maybe that engages the parent a little bit more. We’re hoping that maybe that extra bit gives a little more participation.”
The internet regulations would be similar to the school access, including blocking certain websites.
It is too early in the process to determine what the cost to the district would be.
Spears said the next step by the board is to create a viable plan to provide the internet to the public and contact MDE for its support.
Labat said she has never seen something like this implemented, but it could provide assistance beyond just a student.
“I think our students being able to have internet access in their home could be very beneficial for not only an achievement level and their academic success but for family dynamics,” Labat said. “Some people take that for granted, but it’s a luxury.”
Spears serves on the Lowndes Community Foundation’s education task force, which last month set a priority for broadcasting internet service to students in the evening.