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Original article can be found on The Signal. Written by Christina Cox.

Students may soon have the ability to check out Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots and use them at home free of charge through a new program for Title 1 schools in the Newhall School District.

Called the “NSD Home Connect Program,” the initiative is expected to be reviewed and discussed during the district’s Governing Board meeting Tuesday.

This program aims to eliminate a digital divide or “Homework Gap” between students with adequate, home Internet access and students with no internet access.

According to the Newhall District, this Homework Gap most significantly impacts low-income students and jeopardizes their performance in school.

By offering Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots to students in the district’s five Title 1 schools—McGrath, Newhall, Old Orchard, Peachland and Wiley Canyon—the district is working to decrease this achievement gap with students in fourth grade to sixth grade.

“In the Newhall School District, our goal through the ‘NSD Home Connect Program’ is provide support to our students and families by providing them home access via a ‘smart spot’ and Chromebook that students in grades 4-6 can check out from their school for a designated period of time,” the agenda item read.

In addition, the Kajeet SmartSpot Wi-Fi device will provide students with “safe, education-only” Internet access that does not allow them to open any entertainment, adult or inappropriate content.

The devices from the district are also expected to be scheduled so students cannot use them between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

In total, the district is expected to purchase 210 Chromebooks and 210 Smartspots, or Wi-Fi hotspots, for the five schools.  Each school is expected to receive a different amount of devices with 50 at McGrath, 45 at Newhall, 30 at Old Orchard, 35 at Peachland and 40 at Wiley Canyon.

Altogether the devices are expected to cost a total of $110,325.32, which will be paid for from the district’s Title 1 Supplemental Educational Services (SES) budget.

Student Emails

The Newhall School District is also considering providing all students in fourth grade to sixth grade with access to their own NSD Gmail account.

According to the district, this decision is necessary so students can access all of the resources on their Chromebooks.  It also has been requested by the NSD Technology Committee for the past two years so students can collaborate and be prepared for their futures in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Governing Board is expected to review a revised board policy and exhibit on the Student Use of Technology that address the student email accounts and clarifies the student use of technology.

According to this policy, students can access their account from anywhere once they have an internet connection.  These student emails will be used to communicate reminders and course content and ask questions related to class work.

However, students will not be able to send emails to parent accounts or anyone outside of the Newhall District domain.

In addition, the policy addresses an Acceptable Use Agreement students and parents are expected to sign before a student receives their own email address.

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