October 13, 2020 10:06:58 AM
Isabelle Altman - [email protected]
Lowndes County School District administrators plan to expand the district's Wi-Fi through parking lots and sports facilities within the next year, allowing members of the community -- and especially students -- to access the district's internet outside class.
LCSD Superintendent Sam Allison said the project would be paid for with about $915,499 in money from the Mississippi Pandemic Response Broadband Availability Act, part of federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act money given to the district to help enhance distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We will use the funds for several things -- one will be to improve our connectivity throughout our campuses and provide hotspots in and around all areas on campuses," Allison said in a text message to The Dispatch this morning.
The pandemic, which prompted LCSD and other area districts to offer a virtual learning option for students whose parents prefered they not be exposed to other students and staff at school, has highlighted the importance of internet connectivity in learning. While Allison previously told The Dispatch he does not know if LCSD will continue to offer virtual learning to the whole student body next semester or next year, he pointed out the expanded Wi-Fi will also help students do homework or search for jobs.
He said some of the CARES money the district has already received was used to purchase devices for each student. Those devices should be sent to the district by November.
"We're trying to figure out ways for people who don't have internet access ... to drive up in the parking lot," he said. "If a kid drives up in our parking lot ... all our kids have devices that automatically connect, so they don't even have to worry about a password or whatnot."
Allison spoke briefly about the project at a meeting of parents of Booster Club members at Caledonia High School Monday night. The Booster Club, which had initially planned to help pay the cost of expanding internet to the press box at CHS's football field before administrators determined they could use federal funds instead, plans to use the Wi-Fi to livestream all school sporting events, along with other school activities.
But Allison stressed laying the fiber optic cable will benefit more than the sports teams.
"I'm glad it can supplement sports, but it's really just we're trying to make ways to have more access across our campus so students can come here," he said.
District officials are still in the process of finding a construction company to lay the fiber optic cables, Allison said. While he hopes the project will be completed in the spring, he said there is no definite timeline -- though he told Booster Club members it would not be complete in time to livestream any of this season's football games.
"It's doable," he said. "We'd love to have it streaming games by the spring."